LABOUR councillors in Powys should ask the Labour Welsh Government to increase the money it makes available for school building projects in rural parts of the country, a Tory councillor has said.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, September 27, councillors look at the outline business case for a replacement school building for Sennybridge County Primary school.
The new build would be able to cater for 150 pupils.
The overall cost of the project is a £11.15 million with an expected 65 per cent of the funding, £7.25 million, to come from the former Welsh Government 21st Century Schools Fund now knows as the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.
The remaining 35 per cent, £3.9 million, needs to be found by the council.
Cabinet member for a learning Powys, Cllr Peter Roberts told the meeting that the cost had gone up by £900,000 in just six months since the project was last discussed by the previous administration in March.
Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies said:
“We’ve seen and analysed what the projects in Powys have cost and other areas of Wales.
“Because of the close relationships that the deputy leader (Cllr Mathew Dorrance) and portfolio holder for finance (Cllr David Thomas) have with the Welsh Government, whether they can approach them to improve that intervention rate.
“It should be greater within rural Wales, because of our higher build costs.
“It’s extremely important that the transformation of our schools continues and there are a number of schools across Powys similar to Sennybridge that really do need investment.
“A 10 per cent improvement in that intervention rate from 65 per cent to 75 per cent would save the council £1.2 million.”
Liberal Democrat cabinet member for a learning Powys, Cllr Roberts said:
“In the spirit of cooperation perhaps you (Cllr Davies) would like to go back to your own Westminster Government and lobby them to make more capital funding available for the Welsh Government to invest into this scheme.”
Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Thomas added:
“I agree entirely with Aled on increasing the intervention rates for rural schools, but I think that’s in the context of rural cost analysis generally and should be part of that discussion.
“My understanding is that is that there is an intention to develop these discussions with the Welsh Government.
“Just because the deputy leader and I do have contacts with members of the Welsh Government it does not mean to say that we would have preferential treatment.”
He added that any suggestions from local authorities that are put to the Welsh Government are judged “on the merits of the argument”.
The cabinet went on to approve the outline business case.
This will now be sent to the Welsh Government before the proposal returns to Powys to make a full business case for the investment.
If the process runs smoothly, it is expected that a planning application for the new school building could be ready by November 2023.
Children could be taught at the new school building from September 2025.