It has been quite a while since I checked in with Glasgow City Council to see how they’re getting on with their 100 pledges. One of the vows which caught my eye was the bold statement,“Labour will rebuild or refurbish your local primary school”.
I wondered about the necessity of this pledge when I first read it – will Labour insist on refurbishing every single school, even the brand new ones? Is this even achievable within the necessary timescale and budget? There are 140 primary schools in Glasgow. The next local elections will be in 2017, so the council has five years in which to meet this pledge. If we assume that 2012 will be devoted to preparation, then over the remaining four years, the council will need to rebuild or refurbish 35 schools per year. It does sound do-able, as long as there’s in a plan in place.
So, back I have gone to the Council’s recent papers, to see what progress has been made. Thankfully, the minutes from the last full Council meeting on 28th June have now been published. However, there are no updates on issues relating to the 100 pledges, just a lot of appointments to external bodies and some general debate.
But this pledge must fall squarely within the remit of the Children and Families Policy Development Committee, so let’s see what it’s been up to. At its meeting on 14th June, the Committee received a paper reviewing its workplan and requested further updates on various issues, including the Schools Capital Refurbishment Programme. The Committee meets again on 30th August, but this Programme is not on the agenda. So what is the Programme, and what is its current status?
Committee is clearly not the place to look for this information. The Council’s Education pages are slightly more illuminating, containing as they do the following startling statement,
“In the past, when the council has closed schools it has built new ones, but in the current global financial climate it cannot afford to build new schools and nurseries.”
Obviously, building new schools is different from rebuilding and refurbishing existing ones, but it’s still a remarkably stark public statement. Interestingly, the Council’s 2009-12 Education Estate Strategy aimed to address a projected 32% under-occupancy in primary schools, through merging schools where appropriate and developing larger community campuses. Ninety-six per cent of respondents were opposed to the proposals in the Strategy, but the majority of them went ahead anyway, leading one to wonder what the point of the consultation was.
So I assume that a new Estate Strategy for 2013-16 is currently in preparation, which will encompass the mysterious Schools Capital Refurbishment Programme, about which I can find literally no information. But neither the Council, the Executive Committee nor the Children and Families Committee make any mention of it. This is the pattern that is emerging across most of the policy areas I’ve looked at – there is clearly a plan somewhere, but the relevant Council Committee doesn’t seem to be the place to find it. Should it really be this hard to find out what the Council is doing?