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Caithness News Bulletins March 2006
£134 Million Highland Schools Contract Is Biggest Ever In The North
The Highland Council today (Thursday 30 March 2006) signed an agreement confirming the biggest building programme to be undertaken by a local authority in the Highlands, including Scotland’s first purpose built Gaelic school. Alpha Schools (Highland) Ltd, a consortium of Morrison PLC and Noble Fund Managers, will begin work next month on the first three of 11 new rural and urban community schools to be built over the next three years under the second Highland Education Public Private Partnership as part of the Council's ambitious 21st Century School Improvement Programme.
Turf cutting ceremonies will be held at the site of a new primary school to meet the rapidly growing population at Inshes, Inverness, Dingwall Academy and Portree High School over the next few weeks following the signing of the bond launch and financial close of the contract, which has a capital value of £134 million
In the PPP2 Initiative, new secondary schools are being built at Dingwall Academy, Kinlochleven High School, Millburn Academy, Inverness, and Portree High School, which will include a swimming pool, community library and learning centre. Also in the programme is the construction of a new school for pupils with additional support needs in Inverness; the new primary school at Inshes, Inverness, and a school for Gaelic Medium pupils in Inverness, as well as new primary schools at Kinlochleven, Resolis (Cullicudden and Newhall amalgamation), Culbokie and Cawdor.
The unitary charge for all 11 schools has been fixed at £15.725 million per year. The project is being funded through a package of Bond Finance and funding provided by the European Investment Bank. The use of Bond finance and the involvement of the EIB have been central to reducing the overall costs of the project. The Scottish Executive will pay a total of £215 million in Revenue Support Grant to the Council over the life of the contract.
The contract includes the capital cost of building the 11 schools as well as the interest on the capital; inflation over the 30 years; the heating and maintenance of the building over the 30 years; janitorial and cleaning costs over 30 years; and the use of the community facilities outwith school hours amounting to 12,000 hours per year over 30 years.
Convener Councillor Alison Magee warmly welcomed the conclusion of the contractual negations. She said: “This is the most significant investment this Council has or is likely to make and demonstrates our commitment to Highland communities. These are not only 21st century schools but very important facilities for the communities concerned.
“There will also be a very considerable spin off for the construction industry in the Highlands. I am absolutely delighted that the contract has now been signed and we can look forward to the construction of these eagerly-awaited new community schools. A huge amount of time and effort has gone into these often complex negotiations and everyone involved deserves a very big thank you for concluding these with affordable limits.”
Councillor Andy Anderson, Chairman of the Education Culture and Sport Committee, said: “We embarked on this ambitious programme because we want as many pupils as possible to receive their education in surroundings that match the quality of the teaching we provide.”
He recognised that the PPP2 scheme will not be sufficient to deliver the improvement programme and that the more traditional funding route of Section 94 capital consent and its replacement will be used to complement the PPP scheme. A notable scheme was the £10 million upgrade of Lochaber High School.
The timetable for the construction of the 11 schools is as follows: