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Millions more to be invested in new schools

THE national battle to combat leaking roofs, dodgy windows and inadequate classrooms advanced this week with Highland, Renfrewshire and Angus all working up plans to upgrade and rebuild schools under the public private partnership (PPP) scheme.

In one of the most ambitious programmes, Renfrewshire is aiming to upgrade all its schools as part of a pound;600 million PPP initiative spread over 25 years. Initial building would run to pound;85 million, backed by a pound;6 million injection for new technology.

Like other councils, Renfrewshire wants to set up a feasibility study over the next six months with support from the Scottish Executive. Last month, ministers announced pound;5 million would be available this year for councils to investigate partnership schemes.

The Labour-run authority estimates that a minimum of pound;46 million is needed now to repair schools. But it would take 25 years before theywere upgraded at the current rate of funding of just pound;2.8 million a year. The council believes that it could never overtake the present and future needs without PPP support.

It is planning two new secondary schools at a cost of pound;43 million, three new primaries costing pound;9 million, and extensions running to pound;6.5 million. Repairs and maintenance to all other schools would cost pound;26 million.

Meanwhile, Highland was yesterday (Thursday) set to approve a preferred bidder for its project to build new high schools in Ardnamurchan and Drumnadrochit and primaries in Spean Bridge and Tomatin.

In SNP-led Angus, the authority has backed PPP studies to tackle a pound;30 million buildings backlog. Similarly, Dumfries and Galloway has already opened talks on upgrading its stock.

The Executive has disclosed that 100 schools are currently being built or renovated through PPP schemes.

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