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School upgrades hit hard by inflation

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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School upgrades hit hard by inflation

A PROGRAMME of maintenance and improvement works to schools and nurseries across Dumfries and Galloway has been heavily impacted by a huge increase in the price of building materials.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has scheduled upgrades to its educational buildings, aiming to spend £5m each year for the next three years.

However, education bosses revealed that they have faced several challenges, including delays to construction work and inflationary increases of between 20 and 50 per cent for building materials.

Larann Foss, the school’s estates manager, gave an update on the situation at the council’s education and learning committee last week.

He admitted there has been an “extensive slippage” of £1.6m as school improvement projects fell way behind schedule, but insisted that no shortcuts will be taken.

He said: “These projects are not changing in terms of what’s planned to be invested there, it’s just about the timing.

“Covid has had a massive impact. Projects have taken longer, so our colleagues in property are still with the projects that haven’t been finished, and haven’t been able to move onto the next one. It’s about the timing on it.

“Some of it is about inflationary increases, which we are seeing through the cost of living. We are seeing that in the construction industry now as well, with material prices up 20-50 per cent, depending on what they are.

“But what we’re doing is ensuring we’re not watering down or adapting the end specification or end product from a schools’ perspective.

“What we’re doing is moving those pots of money around to ensure we’re still delivering the same end user expectations.”

A long list of improvement works have been scheduled for the schools estate over the next three years, ranging from just £140 for a rewiring job at Lochmaben Primary this year, to £600,000 for the first phase of a full-scale refurbishment at Locharbriggs Primary.

Nearly £1.4m will be spent on the next phase of the Locharbriggs work in 2023/24, and then a further £200,000 the following year.

Meanwhile, £2.4m is to be invested over the next two years in a combined refurbishment project at Park Primary and the nursery in Stranraer.

Larann Foss added: “The investment is based on priority order. That priority order is determined by the condition of all of our schools.

“We assess all of our schools on a regular basis, and we look at the ones that are in most need of investment – and those are the ones that we invest in first.”

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