Louise Haigh MP for Sheffield Heeley and Councillor Dawn Dale have spoken out against the government’s “broken promises’’ on covering the cost of removing unsafe Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) from a Sheffield School.
Work to remove the dangerous concrete from Abbey Lane Primary school in Woodseats, which educates pupils between four and eleven years old, was carried out proactively by the council after surveys were conducted. Louise Haigh MP and Councillor Dawn Dale says that they are deeply disappointed and feel let down after the government reneged on promises to cover the cost of removal.
Louise Haigh MP for Sheffield Heeley, said:
“This is another example of the many broken promises by this Tory government. When they announced in the summer, days before children were due to return to school, following the summer break, that many schools were being forced to close, due to this dangerous concrete, they promised to cover the cost of the work. However, nearly three months on, and the government is yet to pay up.
“Sheffield Council have taken the necessary steps and provided more than £600,000 to carry out the work at Abbey Lane Primary School, but this does mean that other schools will be missing out.
“I have once again written to Ministers, urging them to keep their promises and provide this money to ensure that children are kept safe at school.”
Councillor Dawn Dale, Chair of Education, Children and Families Policy Committee said:
“The cost of the works to remove RAAC in Abbey Lane Primary were £620,000, which equates to 20% of the council’s total school maintenance budget of £3.5 million. Schools in this country are in a terrible state due to years of government chronic underfunding. Broken promises to cover the costs will mean that our overall maintenance budget is even smaller and children will ultimately suffer as a result. Some schools will wait even longer for new windows or repairs, because there just won’t be enough cash available, which makes me angry.
“We’ve worked hard to re-survey school buildings for RAAC and that work will increase over half term when access to schools is easier for the surveyors. Prior to the government’s change in policy around RAAC, we had already identified one school in Sheffield, Abbey Lane Primary in Woodseats, where RAAC was present. We took a proactive approach and in recognising the seriousness of this, we as a council had to act to make the school safe and mitigate the potential risk. To do this we drew up a plan to replace the RAAC and had contractors on site in the summer to remove it.
“Initially we were led to believe that the Department for Education (DfE) would reimburse Local Authorities for any works carried out to remove RAAC. I am hugely disappointed that the government has gone back on that promise and have let down young people in Sheffield as a result. They should pay up”.
RAAC is a lightweight form of precast concrete, frequently used in public buildings in the UK from the mid-1960s to the 1990s. It was invented in Sweden in the 1930s and has been discovered to be structurally unsafe. Cities throughout the country have been grappling with how to remove the concrete from buildings and Sheffield City Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee met to discuss the approach to removing it from council buildings.