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Funds shortage threatens 170 school build projects: Ruane

Major building projects at 170 schools with poor accommodation are under threat because of a shortage of capital funding, the Education Minister has confirmed.

Caitriona Ruane said she wanted work on 10 new school builds to begin before the end of the financial year but could only do this if she receives extra money.

She did not name the schools involved but the minister said the new builds would be threatened if she could not obtain the £30m capital needed from the Executive.

“I am urging and asking the Executive for more money for the school building because I don't want schools to be disappointed,” she said.

The minister issued a written statement yesterday after failing to show up in the Assembly to make a statement on her controversial review of capital building projects.

When she announced the review in October, Ms Ruane said it would be “swift and robust”.

In her statement, the minister said: “I desperately want to build new schools. I currently have around 70 projects that are announced for major capital works funding and a further 100 potential projects at various stages of feasibility study and economic appraisal.

“All these schools have been identified as having serious accommodation issues and all of these projects need to be delivered.

“I would like to have seen another 10 or so of new builds to have proceeded on site before the end of the financial year. That is still possible if I receive the monies I have bid for in the June monitoring round.

“If these additional funds are not allocated to DE (the Department of Education) for capital build projects then I fear that a delay on commencing these schools for some months is inevitable. We simply cannot build schools without the money.”

The Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the maintenance backlog at Northern Ireland’s schools is close to £300m.

Meanwhile, the minister has apologised to the Assembly after she failed to show up to deliver the scheduled statement on the review of school building projects.

Her planned statement was given in written form to Assembly members shortly before she was due to speak yesterday but the Education Minister did not show when called to address the politicians during a plenary session.

Speaker Willie Hay was forced to move onto other business.

The South Down MLA said afterwards that she had been “held up at another meeting” and had arrived at Stormont three minutes late.

Mervyn Storey, DUP education spokesman and chair of the Assembly’s education committee, said: “It is disgraceful that the minister did not show up.

“However, this is a perfect example of how she treats the Assembly and also education.”

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