Council-run schools maintenance backlog at least £23.3m

File pic.

North Yorkshire Council has revealed it is grappling with a schools maintenance backlog of at least £22.3 million, and says a further £73.3 million more will be needed to address the condition of classrooms within five years.

An officer’s report to a meeting of the authority’s executive on Tuesday (June 11) states government funding for its maintenance programme for 186 council-run schools for the coming year has fallen to £5.88m, from £7.33m two years ago, partly due to the number of council-run schools dropping.

In addition to the grant, the Department for Education (DfE) has awarded £1.2m directly to North Yorkshire schools, which schools have agreed to “contribute” to the council so they can be included in its maintenance programme.

The report states: “In some cases, this means that schools will be asked to fully fund maintenance projects that have been identified through condition surveys as a high priority rather than other projects.”

The document adds the £23.3m maintenance backlog is “a conservative estimate” which is being reviewed and only reflects expected costs for the repair or replacement and does not include costs such as asbestos removal or temporary classrooms during works.

It also highlights how the schools’ condition grant is the only capital funding stream available to support other improvement works and is calculated using a DfE study of schools’ upkeep dating to 2019 that is not set to be reviewed until 2026.

The report does not give examples of specific maintenance issues schools are facing, but does state a “large number of the council’s school buildings contain asbestos which is managed in situ”.

It adds the authority maintains a rolling review of the condition of prefabricated and portable classrooms to determine whether some are beyond economic repair or at risk of becoming unsafe.

The report states while the size of the school estate makes it an important factor in the council’s overall emissions-cutting plan, given the current size of the maintenance backlog, and the limited funding available, it is unlikely that schemes will be prioritised solely on the basis of carbon reduction.

When asked why North Yorkshire schools had such a significant maintenance backlog, Councillor Annabel Wilkinson, the Conservative-led authority’s executive member for education, said the DfE funding had not met the maintenance and improvement needs of schools for many years.

She added: “This is not unique to North Yorkshire and is part of a wider national issue of school conditions. We have raised these issues with the DfE previously and will continue to do so.”

The authority’s Labour group leader, Councillor Steve Shaw Wright, who recently highlighted how a Selby primary school had appealed to the community to donate materials and carry out maintenance and improvement works, said the council needed “to pull its finger out” and press the government for more money.

He said: “The council needs to be lobbying their government which is cutting the budget, which is irresponsible.”

The DFE has been approached for comment.