North Yorkshire schools face maintenance backlogs

Classroom file pic.

Scores of North Yorkshire schools and children’s centres are facing escalating maintenance backlogs as funding for repairs has dropped by 12 per cent this year.

North Yorkshire County Council education bosses said only the “highest priority” remedial works had been included in this year’s £10.1m programme, and any remaining funding would be used for urgent unplanned work which emerges mid-year.

They added due to overspends in the last financial year, there was no general contingency funding to roll forward to respond to emerging condition issues.

It is understood schools are facing a huge competition to get a share of the funding from the council.

A council spokesman said: “Once again this year it will contain a smaller number of larger value projects than in previous years as there are some schools which still have growing maintenance backlogs requiring significant investment.”

Councillor Patrick Mulligan, the authority’s executive member for education, said the authority was having to focus on tackling the most serious issues, but as property elsewhere depreciated, the council was facing long-term costs instead of what should have been a short-term maintenance issue.

He said: “Where things can be bad we don’t have enough to address them. There’s more of an immediacy to deal with things as they get really bad.

“I think our schools in general are very well maintained. I think there are some areas where they are getting a bit more run-down than they used to be. Because our budget is going down 12 per cent we are not able to do the same level of maintenance that we were able to do two years ago.”

He said while one-off government grants, such as the funding the authority received in January, were appreciated because they “bailed us out to a degree”, they prevented the council from being able to plan repair programmes.

Cllr Mulligan said: “It is a crazy system where the government come to the rescue at the last minute with some cash because there is so much noise, but what are we going to get next year?”

In addition, North Yorkshire faced additional pressures due to its large number of small schools, Cllr Mulligan said, as schools received funding per pupil.

He said: “If they have a small number of students then they have to prioritise the teaching and the leadership and less so maybe the building.

“I would encourage schools to clamour for the funding because some of them are better at it than others.

“We will do everything we can within the funding that we are allocated to prioritise the ones that need it most. Some schools don’t bother to apply for funding for some reason and others are quite aggressive, but we want them all to have their share of the pie.”

Cllr Mulligan said funding for schools maintenance was another pressing issue that had been put off due to the Tory leadership contest and Brexit.

He added: “There’s no end in sight, at least until Brexit and the leadership contest are sorted out, so we will just have to do the best we can.”