Concern over extra public funding for £32m school

By Emily Pearce

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

 

Concern over extra public funding for £32m school

Cowes Enterprise College. File.

PLANS to plough a further £357,500 of public money into Cowes Enterprise College, to carry out building repairs and investigations into the leaking roof, were approved last night (Tuesday).

Isle of Wight Council executive members largely agreed they had little choice but to hand the cash over to Hampshire County Council, which has taken charge of the project, although Cllrs Steve Stubbings and Phil Jordan abstained from the vote.

Cllr Stubbings said he was 'seriously concerned' about the final cost of bringing the building up to scratch, set to be revealed in a fresh report next month, along with details of the work still required.

"This strikes me as a legacy that has become an albatross very quickly, and we are struggling to manage this situation. Every penny we commit to this project is money that's being taken away from other areas.

"I want to express real reservation and serious concern about where we are going with this project," he said.

Cllr Jordan said: "The whole thing was mismanaged from the start. We are nowhere near the end, which is another great worry. If we agree to this we likely to be faced with further spend because of the complete an utter maladministration of this building."

However, Cllr Richard Priest, executive member for children's services and education, said there was no choice but to complete the project.

He said: "This has been a tortuous journey and something we have inherited from the previous administration. We are not where we want to be in terms of the costs we have inherited and issues with the building,but we need to move forward with the project as best we can.

"It's not a position any of us want to be in, but this is the right thing to do in terms of taking this forward. It's it the best interest of the children who attend the school, we have to get on and focus on improving attainment and attendance.

"If we do not go forward with it, the consequences will be extreme."

A public meeting will be held on April 28 to discuss the ongoing problems with the building, how much they will cost to fix and the action that will be taken to address them.

As reported extensively by the County Press, the £32m flagship building remains plagued by problems.

The roof is leaking, doors need replacing and there are concerns over ventilation and temperature control. The final phase of the project, to demolish the old school and create new sports facilities, has not even started, and outstanding issues with the former contractor, the now bankrupt Pihl UK, have yet to be resolved.

According to the report presented last night, the council may have to borrow money or sell off property to do so. It warns of ongoing costs to maintain the building, and even admits it may not be an appropriate learning environment for students.

The school is due to be taken over by the Ormiston Academies Trust in September, once the outstanding work has been completed.

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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