Rebuilding programme seeks more EU money

20th February 2009 at 00:00
Last year's Pounds 300m cash injection insufficient; talks on further emergency funds 'ongoing'

The government agency overseeing the Pounds 55 billion secondary school rebuilding programme says it has been forced to ask the European Union for help with funding for a second time.

Partnerships for Schools (PfS) is in talks with the European Investment Bank again despite receiving a Pounds 300 million emergency cash injection at the end of last year.

It is unclear how much the EU will be putting into the Building Schools for the Future programme, but it is believed the initial bailout could grow by a significant amount.

A PfS spokeswoman said: "We have secured a commitment in principle from the European Investment Bank of Pounds 300 million support to BSF schemes that have a private finance initiative component, and we are in ongoing discussions with the bank about extending this level of support, including to smaller schemes."

Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, said it was "embarrassing" that the Government had to be "bailed out for a second time" by the European bank.

"Ministers seem to have bitten off more than they could chew with this whole project. Now we not only have chronic delays but huge overspending and a desperate search for more money to fund it."

Tim Byles, chief executive of PfS, said he was "working on a range of measures" to generate funding for the faltering building programme.

The TES understands this includes a plan to access local government pension funds to invest in the programme and to ensure contracts can be signed off and construction work begins. However, this is still in its early stages.

Mr Byles is also shortening PFI contracts to around 10 years to allow investors to make the investment more attractive.

There are 12 banks in talks with PfS about pumping cash into the building programme, compared to about 30 a year ago. It is believed a further six banks are considering returning to the talks.

Analysis, pages 22-23.

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