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School buildings 'cost 35% less'

School buildings are now being constructed for about a third less, saving the taxpayer millions of pounds, according to ministers.

A total of 260 schools in the worst condition across England are being refurbished or rebuilt through the Government's £2.4 billion Priority School Building Programme (PSBP).

Under the scheme, building projects are costing about 35% less than the previous scheme set up under Labour, the Department for Education (DfE) claimed.

It said that the average cost of rebuilding a secondary school through PSBP is about £15 million, with each one saving around £5 million of taxpayers' money.

The time for building work to begin on a project has been cut from three years, on average under the old scheme, to around one year, the DfE added.

Official figures suggest that the Government expects to see about a £7 billion boost to the economy from PSBP, a calculation which the DfE said is based on projections which show that every £1 spent on construction projects generates around £3 of economic activity.

The scheme is creating employment, with the 260 projects typically employing 39,000 workers over the programme's lifetime, regional development and opportunities for local small and medium enterprises to be sub-contracted work, the government said.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "Investing in the Priority School Building Programme is not only delivering great new schools that will help prepare thousands of young people for life in modern Britain, but it is also a key part of our long-term economic plan to secure a stronger economy, creating jobs and security for hard-working people."

She added: "We're also making sure each school is built efficiently so that we get value for money for the taxpayer while delivering excellent schools for pupils and teachers."

The Government has announced a second phase of the scheme, worth about £2 billion, and applications are currently being considered.

PSBP has not been without contention and last year town hall chiefs raised concerns about delays to the start of the programme.

The scheme was set up after ministers controversially scrapped Labour's £55 billion Building Schools for the Future initiative in 2010.

Under the move, hundreds of schools which were expecting to have their buildings refurbished or rebuilt saw their plans scrapped.

Ministers have always said, and continue to maintain, that BSF was not fit for purpose, was over-budget and behind schedule.

Shortly after BSF was scrapped, six local councils took then Education Secretary Michael Gove to the High Court to challenge his decision to axe the scheme, which had affected school building projects in their areas.

Mr Justice Holman ruled that Mr Gove had unlawfully failed to consult the councils before imposing the cuts, adding that in five of the cases the failure was ''so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power''.

He ruled that Mr Gove must reconsider his decision, but added that any final judgement over the future of the projects remained with the Government.

It was later announced that the six councils' building schemes would not be restored, with Mr Gove saying that while he appreciated the authorities would be disappointed by the decision, he wanted to ensure "absolute fairness" across the country when handing out funding for school buildings.


From Belfast Telegraph