Walsall Council lobby Government for cash after school expansion plan axe
A council chief is calling on the Government to provide a cash injection to fund a new school build programme to replace old and crumbling buildings.
The authority’s cabinet met on Wednesday to give final approval to changes to the council’s £21.8 million school expansion plan.
As it stand, the proposals will result in new projects to boost pupil places being delayed or, in some cases, scrapped.
Initially, a total of 12 primary and special schools were set to have work completed by either September this year or September 2019 before a series of issues forced a rethink.
As well as approving the revised scheme, the committee approved leader Mike Bird’s call to instruct officers to lobby Government for more cash.
He cited Salisbury Primary, which had its expansion scheme scrapped amidst concerns about surplus places as a result of lower than expected pupil intake.
Councillor Bird said it was an example of a school which needed a complete new building.
Councillor Bird said: “I’m pleased we have met with schools and they now understand why we have had to do this.
“But we have a number of schools in the borough, some of which are more than a 100 years old.”
He added that some of the schools were in desperate need of new buildings.
“I know Salisbury were disappointed with the change to this programme but I believe a replacement building should be on the agenda for them,” he said.
“Of course, quality of teaching is important but if you also improve the surroundings you should improve education.
“We are asking officers to write to the Department for Education to see if we can secure funding for such projects. I believe we have a case to make.”
Walsall Labour group leader Sean Coughlan said he was disappointed with the changes to the expansion programme.
“Schools feel let down, which is a shame,” he said.
“Postponing work is a false economy as things can change quickly.”
Councillor Coughlan added: “And what we thought would be adequate to provide places for one year is not necessarily going to be adequate a year later.”
By Gurdip Thandi
Local Democracy Reporter