Staffordshire Council in guilty plea on asbestos at school

Staffordshire County Council is facing a hefty fine after admitting liability when dangerous asbestos fibres were released into a primary school.

Glenthorne Primary School in Cheslyn Hay was closed for four months as a result in 2009, costing taxpayers £246,000. Lawyers for the local authority yesterday entered a guilty plea to a health and safety charge brought over the asbestos alert. They admitted failing to ensure persons not in its employment were not exposed to risks.

Sub-contractor Mr Ian Turner was listed as one of the people put at risk.

Rugeley building firm G Evans (Services) Ltd admitted a similar charge and another of failing to ensure the safety of employee Mr Lawrence Hollins.

No details of the offences were given by Mr Timothy Green, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive at Stafford Crown Court.

Judge Mark Eades adjourned the case for the council and the company to be sentenced on a date to be fixed. Staffordshire County Council spokeswoman Gemma Styles said: “The council can confirm that we did enter a guilty plea at Stafford Crown Court.

“The guilty plea reflects an oversight in an otherwise effective management system. The council can make no further comment.”

Jonathan Gough, managing director of G Evans, said today he could not comment due to the ongoing court proceedings but pledged his firm would release a full statement upon sentence.

Staff and 178 pupils were sent home as a result of the health scare on February 13, 2009. The school remained closed until June that year.

Both the county council and Health and Safety Executive launched probes but the Staffordshire authority subsequently became part of the HSE’s investigation.

It is believed asbestos board, used as thermal insulation in construction between the 1950s and 1970s, was disturbed during months of ongoing building works at the school.

Parents were assured at the time that there was only limited risk to the children’s health.