Bid to bypass public private partnerships

15th September 2000 at 01:00
ARGYLL and Bute could become the first authority to introduce a ground-breaking alternative to the Government's preferred option of upgrading schools through public private partnerships (PPPs).

Faced with a modernisation bill of more than pound;50 million and with only pound;3.6 million in the capital budget, the council's education committee agreed last week to investigate a "non-profit-distributing organisation" (NPDO).

It would take up to 20 years to repair the stock of 94 schools under existing financial arrangements and longer to bring them up to acceptable standards. Officials warn that the council could face legal action by parents if it does not act.

Mike Geraghty, head of lifelong learning and capital resource, said: "We have a significant and deteriorating difficulty the present structures do not allow us to tackle."

The NPDO scheme is lready deployed to run leisure and recreation services but no authority has yet considered transferring ownership and servicing of schools to an independent organisation. Argyll would be represented on the body but would not control it.

Substantial funds for refurbishment would be realised by borrowing against the yearly flow from the council's present capital budget, which would be paid into the NPDO.

Mr Geraghty said: "While councils can borrow against their assets to fund capital investment, the requirements of Section 94 capital consent are such that it limits and prescribes the amounts that can be borrowed."

Alternative methods of funding would not be regarded as council spending. Accountants from KPMG told the authority they know of "no legal show stoppers".

The authority is to set up a core team to explore the project.

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