» Thursday, February 12, 2004


Asked to explain what was new about the Government’s Building Schools for the Future initiative, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that what was new was the fifteen-year programme to address the problem of dilapidated school buildings. In 1997, the level of capital spending for schools had been £700m. By 2005, it would be £5.1bn. Of that, £2bn was being allocated to fourteen LEAs which would carry out a systematic programme of either rebuilding of refurbishing secondary schools in their areas. This meant that in fifteen years’ time, every secondary school would be either new or as new. Asked if it was the capital spending that was new, the PMOS said no. The money had already been allocated. Today’s announcement was outlining details about how the money was going to be spent. We wanted LEAs to move away from the mend-and-repair mentality of 1997 when £700m was all that had been possible to spend, to a systematic programme of rebuilding or rehabilitation.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been indicating in his speech this afternoon that it would take fifteen years to modernise all our public services, the PMOS said no. The fifteen years referred specifically to rebuilding/refurbishing secondary schools which were dilapidated as a result of past under-investment. We wanted to transform schools buildings into ones which were fit for a new era. Pressed as to whether the Prime Minister believed it would take fifteen years to transform all of our public services, the PMOS again said no. He repeated that the fifteen years applied specifically to the subject of school buildings. It went without saying that it wouldn’t be sensible to adopt a timespan and then apply it dogmatically across all of our public services. Each had different needs and requirements, which was why targets should be refined as and when it was necessary. Asked where we were at the moment in the fifteen-year timespan, the PMOS said that we were at the beginning.

Asked if it was coincidence that the fourteen LEAs which had been included in the first wave of the Building Schools for the Future programme were predominantly Labour and urban, the PMOS said that it wasn’t for him to comment on any party political aspect of today’s announcement. However, as he understood it, the fourteen LEAs were in areas that suffered from urban deprivation and in which there was a history of neglect of school buildings. Their inclusion in the first wave of the programme should therefore not come as any surprise.

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