Council spends £53m on crumbling concrete problems at schools

The council have invited the Scottish education secretary to meet to 'urgently identify solutions'.

West Lothian Council spends £53m on crumbling concrete problems at schools Google Maps

West Lothian Council has already spent  £53m  tackling crumbling concrete in county schools.

On Tuesday, the council’s education executive heard that the cash has covered everything from repair work to primary schools, to providing emergency accommodation for the largest secondary, St Kentigern’s.

Councillor Andrew McGuire the chair of the education executive has invited Holyrood’s education cabinet secretary to meet him at St Kentigern’s because of the need to “urgently identify solutions to ensure this situation can be rectified.”

The Blackburn high school, with more than 1,300 pupils, is now facing a partial rebuild after more than a third of the building was closed last year after RAAC planks were discovered. The cheapest long term option is for demolition of the parts of the building with RAAC panels and new build replacement.

The council’s depute chief executive responsible  for education, Dr  Elaine Cook, told the meeting: “West Lothian Council has taken a proactive approach to dealing  with RAAC. It has gone through a process of  identifying RAAC properties since the beginning of 2020.

“It was  reported to Council Executive in June 2021 that five schools were identified as  having issues with  RAAC and since the regular updates have been provided.” 

She gave the council’s Education Executive details of the schools affected and the work being carried out.

The schools in West Lothian with RAAC are:

  • Balbardie Primary School in Bathgate. RAAC is present in a school extension. Work on a replacement roof for this area is ongoing, with £1.8m fully funded by West Lothian Council.
  • Riverside Primary in Livingston. A bid has been submitted to the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme for funding, with a decision expected shortly.
  • Windyknowe Primary in Bathgate. RAAC is only present in the nursery area and a small section of the first floor. Replacement roof works for this area are ongoing, with £1.3m fully funded by West Lothian Council.
  • Knightsridge Primary in Livingston. The school building was temporarily closed in November 2022. A £6.7m programme of work began in December 2022 and is ongoing, fully funded by West Lothian Council.
  • St. Kentigern’s Academy in Blackburn. A proposal to demolish the parts of the school affected and construct a new wing has been approved by Council Executive, with the potential costs estimated at up to £35 million. The council has committed £20m to the works and an approach has been made to the Scottish Government regarding the rest of the funding required.”.

Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan, the council’s depute leader asked: “Do you have total of the costs this council has had to shell out for RAAC across the educational estate. Across the five schools mentioned?”

 Dr Cook replied: “The finance is currently at £53m. However we still   have some additionality in terms  costs of temporary units to be added to that.” 

 In his letter  to Cabinet Secretary Jenny Gilruth Councillor McGuire sought an answer on funding for new primary schools buildings would be made available  as well as  asked her and education officials to meet him and council officers at St Kent’s.

He said: “I would like to invite yourself and officials to meet with me urgently at one or both of these school buildings so you can see first hand the disruption this RAAC is having on our school estate and so that we can have discussions on how the Scottish Government can help support the council to ensure that this situation is resolved quickly and satisfactorily for the benefit of learners in West Lothian.”

“The council has yet to have the Scottish Government refunding to replace one of the primary schools buildings confirmed. 

Councillor McGuire added in his letter to the minister: “As you are aware from our previous correspondence we are waiting for an announcement on the Learning Investment Estate Programme (LEIP) funding for our bid for a new school in Craigshill in Livingston which will allow us to address the situation in schools in the area.

“Sadly as this announcement has been delayed now for nine months we have had to close one school building entirely and have had to decant children to another building.

“While this is a suitable temporary arrangement it cannot be a permanent solution. Given this I write to seek information on when the Scottish Government expect to announce the LEIP funding.”

Outwith the education estate the council has also had to commit around £10m  rectifying problems with RAAC plank roofs in community centres including in Fauldhourse,  Whitburn’s community Centre and Livuingston’s Lanthorn centre.

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