The first step in a proposal to borrow millions to build new schools in Pembrokeshire has been given the green light by full council.
Plans for the 21st Century Schools band B programme in the county had been facing a shortfall of nearly £45million with discussions about how to continue with plans for investment in Milford Haven schools, Portfield Special School and Pembrokeshire Learning Centre/PRU held in recent months.
The overall budget for the Welsh Government supported scheme is £106.4million with nearly £50million already committed.
At full council on Thursday councillors approved a recommendation to invest £20.3million at Portfield School, where the lower school site is considered unsuitable for the education of children with special educational needs.
An investment of £18.2m at the Neyland site of the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, which provides education for pupils aged between 11 and 16 with complex needs, was also approved.
In Milford Haven there is a need for new primary and secondary provision with a project estimated at £62.4million to be funded using a Mutual Investment Model – the agreement of which is to be drawn up at a later stage councillors were told.
This, cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister, has said was the updated version of a PFI scheme and would impact the council’s revenue budget, with a suggestion that a council tax increase of 0.27 per cent per year – £3.21 to £3.25 a year – from 2022 to 2026 be put in place to ensure funding.
Questions were raised about the “mortgaging” of council tax for future administrations, as well as how this would cover a 25 year repayment plan, and whether approving plans without secure funding would lead to Audit Wales investigations.
Others also highlighted the need for investment in the county’s schools including Ysgol y Preseli and Greenhill as well as the importance of not backing out of plans for Milford Haven.
Cabinet member for education Cllr Guy Woodham added: “It’s a staged approach, what we are approving today is the next stage forward.”
The next step would be the preparation of a strategic outline case, outline business case and full business case for each project which would be submitted to Welsh Government.