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City council saddled with £241k bill for old school buildings

By Carl Jackson | Birmingham | News | Published: | Last Updated:

A council paying for security at a Birmingham school no pupil has attended for two years has run up costs of £241,000 that it can no longer afford.

Baverstock Academy on Bells Lane. Google Street View

Birmingham City Council admitted it had "no budget" to cover the sum this year to keep the former Baverstock Academy buildings secure.

The old school in Druids Heath has been empty since August 2017 when the academy closed down following alleged financial irregularities and a number of damning Ofsted reports.

It has been earmarked for demolition as part of the council’s £43 million plans to regenerate the estate

But now the near quarter of a million pound cost of keeping the premises secure has been revealed.

The site has been targeted by vandalism, break-ins, trespassing and fly-tipping.

Consequently, they paid for a security guard to be in situ on a 24-hour basis at a cost of around £120,000 a year.

They scaled that down in mid-June to five patrols a day reducing the annual bill to £28,000 due to the frequency of incidents being ‘much lower’.

But the council confirmed there has already been a notable increase in crime since the move.

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On top of that the authority is also having to pay business rates on the empty buildings due to government rules.

A spokeswoman said: “We are exempt for the first three months and beyond that if the building is habitable then business rates apply.

“We are in the process of making an application to be exempted on the basis that the building is not habitable. If agreed, this will have a positive impact on the £241k.”

The costs had been previously covered by the Dedicated School Grant from the Education and Skills Funding Agency but that money is no longer available.

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The spokeswoman added: “We can confirm that this is a budget pressure for this year as the budget for managing education surplus properties is £67k.

“We are currently awaiting approval from the Secretary of State to dispose of the building and the surrounding land.

“If this is not forthcoming by the end of the current financial year, then we will continue to incur these costs.”

Councillor Paul Tilsley, for Sheldon, described the situation as ‘an unmitigated disaster’ when the costs were revealed in a financial monitoring report presented to the council’s resources committee recently.

He said: “I went past there recently, I have to say I was absolutely appalled, it looks like cell block 11 at the moment. It is an absolute scab on our conscience.”

In response, finance and resources chief Councillor Tristan Chatfield, for Weoley and Selly Oak, said: “I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately it’s one of these ones where the academisation of our schools system has consequences for us as a local authority and that has a financial implication.

“The government clearly doesn’t care about this financial implication to local authorities.”

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
@CarlJackson_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham City Council.

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