Posted: Tue 30th Apr 2024

Fears Raised Over Potential £300 Million School Building Programme Cutbacks /

FEARS have been raised that Liberal Democrat and Labour cabinet members in Powys could vote against a school building programme worth £300 million over the next decade and go for a cheaper option.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Tuesday, April 23, members were presented with the draft Strategic Outline Programme (SOP) to the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning’s nine-year rolling programme.
The Welsh Government has asked local authorities to submit their proposals and the difference between old 21st Century Schools Programme and the new funding programme is that councils now need to outline a “rolling programme” of proposals for up to nine years.
While the preferred option would see £300 million worth over of investment over the next decade – just under £200 million would be expected to come from the Welsh Government.
There are two other options that cabinet could choose, which is a “do minimum” worth £112 million which would deliver the five school build projects that are currently in their design stages.
These are: Machynlleth’s combined primary and secondary school Ysgol Bro Hyddgen, Brynllywarch Special School in Kerry, Ysgol Bro Dderwen in Newtown, Sennybridge primary school, Ysgol Golwg Pen y Fan in Brecon, a new school building following the mergers of Cradoc and Mount Street infant and junior schools.
A second option is to finish off the five school build projects which make up option one and include remodelling of Ysgol Bro Caereinion in Llanfair Caereinon in preparation of it becoming a Welsh medium all through school and the splitting Ysgol Calon Cymru into an English medium high school in Llandrindod Wells and Welsh medium all through school in Builth Wells.
This option would cost £270 million and would also deliver the council’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP).
All three options would include funding maintenance work for schools in the most need.
Committee chairman, Conservative Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said:  “Cabinet could still choose option one, from a financial point of view we know what council finances are across Wales I slightly worry about that considering that option three is linked with the transformation process and things are already progressing in that matter.”
Cllr Thomas said that work to reconfigure the Llanfyllin catchment area is already underway and choosing any other option would undermine that.
Cllr Thomas said: “If option three did not go through it would leave areas left wanting.”
School transformation manager Marianne Evans said: “We’ve profiled the programme over 12 years rather than nine because are we are probably not going to achieve everything in nine years.
“What cabinet will need to consider is if we don’t do this what happens to our school estate.
“Given the scale of the issues that our schools are facing, I’m recommending very strongly that they go with the third option and maximise as much of that £300 million as we can.”
It is expected that the report with go before the cabinet at their next meeting on May 7. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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