PM reveals 10-year schools rebuilding programme as part of economic bounce back

Social distancing at a school (Jacob King/PA)
Social distancing at a school (Jacob King/PA) - (Copyright PA Wire)
22:30pm, Sun 28 Jun 2020
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The Prime Minister will attempt to kick-start the economy after Covid-19 with a decade-long schools rebuilding plan.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a spending blitz during a speech on Tuesday as he lays the groundwork for the UK to spend its way out of the coronavirus downturn by undertaking a vast building programme.

Part of the plans will include a 10-year undertaking to improve school facilities, along with sprucing up classrooms currently in use.

A £1 billion cash injection will see construction work start on the first 50 projects as soon as September 2021, Downing Street said.

Another £560 million will go towards school repairs in this financial year while further education colleges will see £200 million of the £1.5 billion promised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Spring Budget to transform college estates over the next five years fast tracked so work can be brought forward.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a school (Steve Parsons/PA) - (Copyright PA Wire)

Mr Johnson, speaking before a school visit planned for Monday, said: “All children deserve the best possible start in life – regardless of their background or where they live.

“As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.

“This major new investment will make sure our schools and colleges are fit for the future, with better facilities and brand new buildings so that every child gets a world-class education.”

Details of the programme, along with eligibility for funding, will be laid out in full at the next Spending Review, according to Number 10.

Investment will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition across England – including “substantial investment” in the north and the midlands.

The Government is aiming for the projects to utilise modern and green construction methods both to help meet the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050 and also create highly skilled jobs in the construction sector.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Replacing and upgrading poor condition school and college buildings with modern, energy efficient designs will give our students and teachers the environment they deserve, and support them to maximise their potential.”

But Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran called the PM’s announcement “spin over substance”.

“The funding is nowhere near the £7 billion the National Audit Office has said is needed to repair our schools,” said the MP.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson would have to ensure his building programme reversed a “lost decade” of stagnant investment in many parts of the country.

The cordoned off play area and equipment of a primary school in London (Yui Mok/PA) - (Copyright PA Wire)

New analysis from the opposition party suggested that seven of England’s nine regions saw a reduction in public capital investment per person over the past 10 years since the Conservatives came to power.

In some parts of the country, including Yorkshire, East Midlands and the South West, investment per person is still less than half that seen in London, said Labour.

The party said all regions had seen a decrease in both health and education investment per person since David Cameron became prime minister in 2010.

Sir Keir said: “For much of the country, the Tories’ record on building and investment has been a lost decade.

“Our recovery from the coronavirus crisis needs to match the scale of the challenge.

“It must be built on solid foundations. It has to work for the whole country and end the deep injustices across the country.

“We are on the cusp of one of the biggest economic crises we have ever seen.

“The Government must immediately prioritise protecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

“That’s why Labour has called for a ‘back to work’ Budget that has a laser-like focus on one thing – jobs, jobs, jobs.”

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