The final nail in the coffin of Helston Community College’s rebuild project came down today when Cornwall Council agreed to stop progressing the scheme.
Members of the cabinet met this afternoon and heard an “extensive review” had taken place over the last two years to find possible sources of funding to rebuild Helston C Block – at an estimated cost of £10 million – which has now concluded that none are achievable or affordable in the current financial situation. As a result members today “reluctantly” agreed not to progress the scheme at this time.
It follows a decision by the cabinet in July 2012 to agree in principle to replace “C” Block of Helston Community College, subject to the identification of the necessary funding, officers and members from both the last administration and the current council have been working to find the estimated £10 million needed for the new building. In a statement released this afternoon, however, the council said: “Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone concerned, it has not been possible to identify this funding.
“The council will, however, continue to actively work and support Helston Community College to access any other sources of Government funding which may become available in the future and for which the school may be eligible for. “One of the sources of potential funding currently being considered is Priority Schools Building Programme 2 (second phase) announced on May 1 2014 and whether or not the proposed rebuild of C Block will fit the criteria set by Government for this funding.
“It is highly unusual for a local authority to support a school maintenance scheme from its own resources. While the council does receive an annual allocation for schools’ urgent backlog maintenance issues for maintained schools, this is only a limited amount of funding.”
The authority is currently facing a maintenance backlog in excess of £59m across maintained schools and with allocations of less than £12m over the past two years from Government for these issues, it has not been possible to use this funding to support the rebuild of Helston C Block. The allocation of the Education Capital Backlog Maintenance fund is prioritised and allocated in partnership with the Schools’ Forum using an agreed set of criteria. Schools would also normally be expected to contribute a minimum of 10% towards the costs of such projects.
In the case of Helston the college has confirmed that its own financial constraints mean that it is unable to make any contribution towards the costs of the scheme, the council said.
The statement adds: “Although the council could not identify the funding for the rebuild of Helston C Block, funding has been prioritised to undertake urgent works at the school and this was agreed at the last Project Board in December 2013 – representatives from both the Council and the School sit on this board.”
Since October 2012 a range of essential maintenance works have been carried out in Helston C block, including essential repairs to the flat roof and the window walling system. Further works are planned for the coming Summer holiday, including mechanical and electrical improvements and essential building repairs. This will bring the council’s investment to date into Helston C block to £332,000.
“The council will continue to work closely with Helston Community College, and indeed all maintained schools, to ensure that the most urgent backlog maintenance works are prioritised. As with all schools however, routine day-to-day maintenance remains the responsibility of the college,” adds the statement.
Andrew Wallis, the council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “We just do not have the resources to fund this project. We have examined every option for funding the rebuild but none have been affordable or achievable.
“We are currently facing a maintenance backlog in excess of £59m for maintained schools , with many in need of serious investment. The Government announced in May that it will be providing a further £2 billion to improve schools, via the Priority Schools Building Programme (2), and we will certainly be trying to get some of this money for schools in Cornwall, including Helston Community College.”