Can they keep the Sabbath and make a profit?

Councillors in the Western Isles fear any bid to renovate schools under public private partnerships may not stand a prayer.

The Sabbatarian council's strict policy against Sunday opening could undermine its business case for PPP projects, according to a report to the education committee which has to deal with a pound;40 million backlog of school repairs.

The report states: "Schools opening for recreational purposes on a Sunday would not meet with approval of significant proportions of certain communities. This is an undoubted source of revenue on the mainland. It could reduce the cost of ongoing PPP contract payments. Thus, any specification that sought to limit the opening times of schools might reduce the competitiveness of the bid."

The authority is considering a programme costing from pound;90 million to pound;20 million, which would cost the council pound;1.12 million or pound;250,000 a year respectively over 40 years. The process is competitive so the business case will have to be strong, the report states.

The council has a minimum programme of upgrading schools in four areas. Features of a full PPP scheme could involve schools playing host to post offices, council rent and tax offices and parts of the health service.

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