The man who oversees schools on behalf of Cornwall Council has explained in more detail why a rebuild of Helston Community College will no longer take place.
Last week the council’s cabinet members “reluctantly” voted to stop progressing a scheme that would have seen the complete redevelopment of the college’s C-Block, at an estimated cost of £10 million.
Councillors heard an “extensive review” had taken place over the last two years to find possible sources of funding, but concluded that none were “achievable or affordable” in the current financial situation.
It brings to an end negotiations of almost two years, following an agreement by the previous cabinet in July 2012 to agree in principle the spending of the £10 million of council funds.
Now Andrew Wallis, Cornwall Councillor for Porthleven and Helston West, who is also portfolio holder for children and young people, has explained in more detail this decision.
Describing it as a “tough decision” he said: “I wish it was different, but the council cannot just magic money and fund this without it having an effect on other areas.
“I wish the funding position was different, and Helston like other schools were getting the school building and funding they deserve. Sadly, this is another example of under-funding in Cornwall.”
Mr Wallis said that when the previous cabinet, of which he was not a member, took the original decision to fund the project it was made “with no clear idea on how the £10 million for the rebuild would be funded.”
He added: “It must be pointed out, it is very unusual for a council to support a large-scale scheme like this from its own resources. In fact the government in the early 2000s took away this power and money and now gives grants directly.”
The government does, however, fund small building schemes and school maintenance each year via the Educational Capital Grant.
For 2012/13 this was £6.8m and for 2013/14 it is £6.34m, which must fund all the county’s local authority schools – with the council currently seeing a maintenance backlog of £59 million.
“So to use all this money for Helston College wouldn’t be enough and would leave all other schools with nothing,” said Mr Wallis.
To fund from the directorate would cost at least £400,000 per year in repayments for more than 20 years and the limited reserves were being used to deal with the “severe financial pressures” the council faced, including paying for the recent storm damage.
One source of money that was identified was the unspent Dedicated Schools Grant, worth roughly £6 million, given by the government to Cornwall for LA schools. However, this money is controlled by the Schools Forum, made up of teachers from Cornwall, which said no to spending it on the Helston rebuild.
The only “small glimmer of hope” is the government’s recent announcement of £2 billion worth of funding for ‘Priority School Building Programme.’
Local authorities, dioceses, academies and multi-academy trusts can submit bids for an entire school site, or parts of it, for funding for rebuilds.
“I believe this is Helston College’s best chance of obtaining funding for this much-needed rebuild.
“I will be doing all I can in making sure Helston College and other schools who are in similar positions to be given some of this funding. It is about time Cornwall was given its fair share of funding, as so often is misses out,” added Mr Wallis.
Headteacher Dr Pat McGovern was unavailable to give his reaction as the Packet went to press.