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Council taxpayers billed for new schools

Highland council taxpayers will face an extra pound;10 a year on their bill from April next year to help pay for 11 new schools to be built under a public private partnership (PPP) scheme.

The council is thought to be the first in Scotland to levy a "hypothecated" tax, where the money raised is earmarked to provide a particular service.

The level of the PPP surcharge will rise annually by 1 per cent. Some pound;830,000 is expected in revenue.

The pound;100 million programme, the second PPP scheme to be undertaken by Highland Council, initially considered upgrading 31 urban and rural schools, but construction costs and Scottish Executive limits on cash have whittled this down to 11.

The programme will be phased over five years, with proposals to open the first new schools in August next year. New secondary schools are planned at Dingwall Academy, Kinlochleven High, Millburn Academy in Inverness and Portree High, as well as new primary schools at Kinlochleven, Cullicudden, Culbokie and Cawdor.

Inverness will have a new special educational needs school, a new primary at Inshes and a school for Gaelic-medium pupils.

The Executive has indicated that it will provide revenue support of pound;7.16 million per annum over 30 years.

The current estimated service charge which the council will pay to the construction consortium, Alpha Schools, will give it a total return of pound;479 million for the outlay of pound;100 million.

The council will have to find more than pound;7 million annually.

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