Council collaboration saves millions
Two local authorities on opposite sides of the country have saved themselves millions of pounds by collaborating on the building of two new secondaries.
East Renfrewshire and Midlothian councils collaborated in the building of Eastwood High in Newton Mearns and Lasswade High in Bonnyrigg, saving around pound;4 million - twice as much as originally predicted.
This is the first time two Scottish councils have come together in a money-saving procurement process for building new schools.
Now both authorities plan to repeat the pilot project - run by the Scottish Futures Trust - in partnership with different councils. Meanwhile other Scottish authorities have signed up to embark on similar schemes.
The new Lasswade High - visited this week by first minister Alex Salmond - and Eastwood High open in August.
The two schools are part of the pound;1.25 billion Scotland's Schools for the Future programme, the alternative to public-private partnerships, which is being funded by the Scottish government and local authorities, and driven forward by SFT.
"These were two schools, one in the east and one in the west, with requirements that were completely different," said Grant Robertson, SFT associate director.
Lasswade High has been designed to serve 1,480 pupils and Eastwood 1,200. Lasswade contains a library, creche and a swimming pool, all of which can be accessed by the community.
Many requirements, however, were the same, Mr Robertson explained. While the buildings looked different, their classrooms were identical. "You could pick up the teaching block for one school and put it on the other site," he said.
According to the SFT benefits statement, the councils saved an estimated pound;175,000 through the creation of a joint procurement team which meant that each authority needed to commit fewer staff. Having a larger project - originally estimated at pound;70 million - was a more attractive prospect and the private sector worked harder to offer a good price; joint legal advice was sought; a joint design team was appointed; and thorough planning meant no design contingency was needed - an estimated saving of almost pound;2.5 million.
It concluded: "The pilot project has demonstrated that working together and joint thinking pays. The savings delivered could in fact pay for a new primary school."
The Scottish Futures Trust manages the Scottish government's pound;1.25 billion Scotland's Schools for the Future programme to help local authorities achieve value for money. To date, six schools have been completed and nine are currently being built. The next 30 schools to be built were announced last year.
Photo: an artist's impression of Lasswade High.
Original headline: Cross-country collaboration saves millions