Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 11:20 GMT on Saturday, 10th November 2012.
Cumbernauld’s MSP hits out at ‘buy now, pay later’ approach to school building by NLC; councillor says he “makes no apology” for building schools”

 

CUMBERNAULD and Kilsyth’s SNP MSP has had his comments rubbished by a North Lanarkshire councillor after the MSP hit out at the council’s £729m bill for schools projects.

 

It all comes after Jamie Hepburn, MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth said that the bill “turns his stomach”.

 

The MSP made his comments after looking into the cost of schools building projects in North Lanarkshire, financed by private finance initiative (PFI) and public-private partnership (PPP) schemes.

 

The initiatives allowed local authorities to carry out large-scale projects, funded by private companies. However, the buildings were then owned by the companies and councils paid for their use, until the end of the contract term, when the building would be transferred into the council’s ownership.

 

The town’s MSP said that North Lanarkshire Council would be paying back £729 million for more than 30 years on school building projects which totalled £150 million.

 

Jamie Hepburn MSP said: “Coming at a time when the council are looking to make more than £70m cuts to services, which may include closing schools, to see such vast sums of public money being handed over to private investors turns the stomach.

 

“This ill-conceived scheme will saddle the people of the North Lanarkshire Council area with an astronomical bill which will take a generation to pay off.”

 

However, North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure committee chair, Councillor Jim Logue, said the local authority had to find a way to bring their schools into the modern age.

 

He said: “Councils across the country were faced with a choice – either make our schools fit for the 21st century or neglect our young people.

 

“We chose to improve our schools but that comes at a cost and PFI/PPP was, at that time, one of the few ways to fund this vital investment in our children’s futures.

 

“I make no apology for making sure that our young people can receive an excellent education in first-class facilities and we will continue to invest in those young people and in our communities.”

 

The PFI/PPP schemes have now been replaced by the Scottish Government with the Scottish Futures Trust, a non-profit distributing initiative. However, Councillor Logue argued that North Lanarkshire Council has been forgotten by the new funding model.

 

He added: “Jamie Hepburn’s SNP government abolished PFI/PPP on coming into power and replaced it with their much-vaunted Scottish Futures Trust.

 

“He claims that the Scottish Futures Trust is building schools and hospitals but not a single school has been built in North Lanarkshire with Scottish Futures Trust money because they have only just begun to make decisions on funding.

 

“Where projects do go ahead with the Scottish Futures Trust, they will not fund the full cost, meaning that the council still has to use capital investment to ensure these projects happen.”

 
 

 
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