Councillors defer decision on Cowes school repair funding

By Emily Pearce

Published on Wednesday, May 07, 2014 - 13:48


LEADING Isle of Wight councillors have refused to commit millions of pounds to fund repair works at Cowes Enterprise College.

Despite a plea from council leader Cllr Ian Stephens to 'man up' and deal with the situation, several executive members were unwilling to commit such a large sum — between £3.3m and £4.1m for essential completion works and repairs — without knowing the precise figure needed.

After concerns were raised during at last night's (Tuesday) council executive meeting, members voted unanimously to defer a decision on funding the repairs until Hampshire County Council's property services team had completed its investigation and finalised costs, likely to be in six weeks.

The executive will then make a recommendation to full council.

Executive member for children's services and young people Cllr Richard Priest failed to convince his colleagues they should act sooner. He said a commitment at this stage would help the council's bid for cash from the government's Education Funding Agency (EFA).

But Cllr Steve Stubbings said members should not feel pressurised into making a decision.

"Why are we making this decision now when we don't know the detail? There is a huge cost variation here and I don't think we have enough information to make a decision," he said.

However, members did agree to use the £1.5m left in the Cowes Enterprise College budget to start work on the final phase of the project, the demolition of the old school building, and make a formal approach to the EFA to fund the remaining work.

As previously reported, the bill for bringing Cowes Enterprise College up to scratch could reach almost £9m.

The £33.6m building remains beset by numerous structural and mechanical problems, including a leaking roof, ill-fitting doors and windows, heating and ventilation systems that do not work and poor acoustics.

If the EFA bid is turned down, the council is expected to have to borrow the money needed to complete the work.

The authority has also warned of ongoing costs to maintain the building and has even admitted it may not be an appropriate learning environment for students.



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