Ste Armstrong, Warrington and St Helens Socialist Party
Schools, colleges and universities are struggling under the weight of cutbacks forced on them by Tory austerity. In Halton, Cheshire, a wave of cuts, poor management and an ill thought out private finance initiative scheme have created crisis in the local education system.
The Grange comprehensive, junior, infant and nursery schools in Runcorn were demolished less than ten years ago, and a new modern, all-purpose school was built in their place. Initially, parents were delighted with the new buildings. However, those same parents have come in for a shock as the bill for the rebuild is set to reach £85 million!
The sum was revealed in a statement of accounts published by Halton Borough Council in which it revealed the project has £65.6 million left to pay during the remainder of its 25-year contract. According to local authority figures, the school cost £24.13 million to build, and will cost an additional £29.66 million in service and maintenance costs for the duration of the deal, and £31.33 million in interest alone.
The rebuilt school opened in 2013, and in January this year it converted to an academy. Despite its new academy status, the debt remains under the remit of the council.
These figures emerged just over a month after the Labour council confirmed it was going ahead with massive cuts to the special education needs budget in the area, citing central government funding reductions.
In April the council promised a review of the policy following a backlash from parents. The cuts were cynically confirmed six weeks after the local elections, leaving a bitter taste in voters’ mouths, particularly after Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition activists revealed the council had over £4 million in cash reserves.
Labour should call for a general election now, to bring in a Corbyn-led government committed to ending the privatisation rip off, reversing austerity and funding education fully, to protect our children’s futures.