Council Commits to Continue Building New Primary School despite Finance Concerns

Somerset County Council maintains its decision to carry on constructing new primary and secondary schools over the next 18 months, bypassing resident concerns about finances.

In January, the council publicly announced its intention to build 24 new or replacement schools in the county by 2023, costing around £140M. David Fothergill, the council leader mentioned that £116M would be funded from its capital funding programme, and supplemented by other sources like developer contributions and the Department of Education (DfE).

In a council meeting held at Taunton on Wednesday, October 17, a resident, Robin Head, submitted a concern about the council’s plans. He says, “We now understand that this money cannot be taken up for at least 18 months as there will be no way of paying it back. Could we know how the county is going to support sufficient places for educating an increase in student’s numbers in Somerset? ‘Alternative sources’ have been mentioned but not expanded upon.”

Mr. Head challenged Somerset County Council’s capability to construct new schools in the allocated time period, stating that it did not have the required funds to begin repaying a central government loan.

A spokeswoman corrected the resident on the nonexistence of a loan deal with the DfE and an 18-month deadline. Calling it “inaccurate,” the council denied the allegation, mentioning it would continue to explore different methods to fund the construction of new schools and carry on building.

A grand project of replacement and expanded provision, the proposed new school will include 14 classrooms over two storeys, in addition to a 52-place nursery by September 2020.

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