Kier and Galliford Try beat BSF freeze

Aaron Morby 14 years ago

Cambridgeshire County Council has signed a £110m contract to remodel and rebuild secondary and special schools across Fenland.

The landmark deal is the first BSF scheme to reach financial close since the new Government took power.

Under the deal struck with investment consortium Equitix, Galliford Try and Kier will divide up the schools work.

The move sends out a clear signal that BSF schemes with preferred bidders on board are not being stopped from closing deals.

The picture does not look as promising for the remaining 52 authorities working up school building projects without bidders.

The Government flagged up its intention to scrap the £55bn school building programme before the election.

It is understood to aiming to building far fewer schools on a strictly “needs must” basis. Although rumours abound that the Academies will escape heavy cuts.

One builder on BSF schemes told the Enquirer: “There is a general view that BSF will be cut. And the future for the six BSF scheme given the go-ahead  to develop plans just before the election will be placed under the closest  scrutiny.”

The six school schemes were given the green light by then education secretary Ed Balls in March and are expected to cost £420m. (listed below)

BSF projects approved in March facing fresh scrutiny

  • Buckinghamshire: £80m
  • Cornwall: £69m
  • Gateshead: £80m
  • Lincolnshire: £70m
  • Oxfordshire: £62m
  • Sutton: £56m
  • Total: £417m

The Treasury has called in all spending departments this week to hammer out big budget savings, ahead of a preliminary Government announcement on Monday.

Although which projects are safe may not be known until the Autumn comprehensive spending review.

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Sutton education portfolio holder, said: “The money pledged to our council by the previous administration would enable us to rebuild or expand schools and transform the quality of education we will be able to offer for some of our most vulnerable pupils.

“Although we recognise the tremendous pressure on the Government to make substantial efficiency savings, we think it would be a mistake to withdraw BSF funding to councils which have already committed substantial amounts of money to reach an advanced stage.”

In the meantime, Gallliford Try is mobilising its teams for a quick start on the first phase of the Cambridgeshire project.

Building work on the first two schools, Neale-Wade Community College and Thomas Community College will start in July.

Kier will build two new schools in Wisbech with a combined value of £44.4m. The Thomas Clarkson Community College is worth £33.4m and the Meadowgate School is valued at £11m.

Design work on the other schools that form part of the Fenland BSF project is expected to begin later this year.

Cllr Martin Curtis, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children said: “This is great news for Cambridgeshire generally and for Fenland in particular.”

The new schools will provide state-of-the art facilities to pupils including leisure and learning, sports and ICT provision, which will not only be available to students but the whole community.

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