'Gross incompetence' blunder saw primary school built too small - debate

Councillors will discuss the findings of an independent review into the mistake.

‘Gross incompetence’ blunder saw Dargavel Primary School built too small – debate LDRS

Councillors will discuss the findings of an independent review into a blunder which saw Dargavel Primary School built too small on Thursday.

Botched roll calculations for the building in Arrochar Drive, Bishopton, has left Renfrewshire Council facing a bill of up to £75m for a second primary school and an extension for Park Mains High School.

Initial sums projected the roll wouldn’t exceed around 430 pupils but recent analysis predicted pupil numbers could peak at 1,131 by 2033 – adding space might even be needed for as many as 1,500 if demand continued long-term.

An investigation carried out by former local government chief executive David Bowles examined the Section 75 agreements between the council and landowner BAE Systems and found demand for school places was “substantially underestimated”.

The review said senior education management at the time were “incompetent” and “not sufficiently engaged” in the project.

However, there are no senior officers, who were involved in the Dargavel development, at the council now.

The probe also found a “repeated failure” to test data and examples where “simple common sense” would have alerted the council to the problem.

A failure to take concerns expressed by councillors, MSPs and community representatives seriously was also highlighted – with a suggestion that officers showed “professional arrogance”.

Councillor Iain McMillan, Labour group leader, said ahead of the full council meeting: “The initial mistakes were never picked up and despite, over a number of years, questions being asked by councillors, members of the community and others, these concerns were dismissed by council officers who thought they knew better.

“Dargavel parents must now be given the respect they should have had when they raised concerns in the first place.”

Council chief executive Alan Russell said last week: “On behalf of Renfrewshire Council, I am deeply sorry for the very serious historic mistakes made over a prolonged period and for the understandable distress caused to local communities in the area.

“This is a very difficult report for the council and will be equally upsetting for the Dargavel community.

“I fully acknowledge the review findings and accept all its recommendations.”

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