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Dumfries Academy funding concerns

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Dumfries and West
Dumfries Academy funding concerns

EDUCATION chiefs this week admitted they are “treading water” over plans for a full-scale redevelopment of Dumfries Academy.

And while councillors have been seeking assurances about the school upgrade plans, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s education department cannot provide any – because they keep being blanked by the Scottish Government.

The council has £23.6m set aside to spend on the secondary school redevelopment – but it’s dependent on Holyrood ministers confirming LEIP (Learning Estate Investment Programme 3) funding which could pay up to half of the total cost.

An announcement was due three months ago and, despite repeatedly contacting the government for confirmation of their cash allocation, education officers keep being fobbed off with generic email responses.

Speaking at the education committee on Tuesday, Larann Foss, the council’s schools property manager, said: “We are treading water just now – until we have a LEIP 3 announcement or otherwise.

“What we do know is that we have the £23.6m secured through the capital investment strategy to allow us to invest in Dumfries Academy.

“Now that won’t touch the whole building. That will do an element of it, and what that element looks like is really, really difficult to determine at this stage.

“We’ll absolutely move forward, should we be unsuccessful with the LEIP 3 funding. What we would look to do is bring back to members an options appraisal of sorts to say, ‘this is what we can do with £23.6m, but if you still want to commit to the whole scale refurbishment of the academy these are the numbers associated with that’.

“Or, if members are so minded, looking at an alternative to any of that, then that’s something that could be proposed as well.”

SNP Councillor George Jamieson insisted that the council should have a “plan B and plan C” in place due to the uncertainty of the situation.

The Annandale South councillor said: “The high school building has been impacted greatly by cost inflations across the board.

“Will the Dumfries school be to the standard that was originally agreed?

“If we don’t get LEIP funding for Dumfries Academy, what’s the next plan? If we do, (we need) a wee bit more clarity on the plan.”

Complicating the situation further is the huge rise in construction costs, with materials around £2.7m over budget.

Steel prices have risen by 60 per cent since 2020, while mechanical, electrical and plumbing prices have more than doubled in some cases.

However, it is understood that all councils will be supported with additional funding to account for inflationary rises.

Labour Councillor Linda Dorward described the poor response from the Scottish Government as “appalling”.

And with Loreburn Primary set to be relocated to the academy campus as part of the school redevelopment, she insisted the plans should not be shelved due to these issues, adding: “I don’t think that we should be looking to take it off the table, certainly not for the Dumfries high school and certainly not for Loreburn Primary either.

“These are absolutely essential things that have been on the books for a long, long time.”

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