Edinburgh PPP school fiasco: Greens say private finance failures need exposed

Green councillors and candidates are demanding that a root and branch review is carried out after a private consortium admitted that it cannot guarantee the safety of 17 schools it built and manages in the capital.

On Friday the City Council took emergency measures to close 17 schools on Monday 11 April after the private consortium, the Edinburgh Schools Partnership, reversed earlier assurances on the safety of the buildings, which were all built under the first round of public-private partnerships (PPP).

Green education spokesperson on the council, Cllr Melanie Main said:

“As a parent with a child at secondary school I know how angry parents and pupils will feel at these sudden closures. For weeks I have been seeking reassurances that schools have been thoroughly inspected and that they were safe to use.  To be told, at very short notice, that this could not be guaranteed after all, is utterly astonishing.

“It is vital that the council and the private consortium running the schools makes absolutely clear what construction problems it has found and how quickly they will be fixed. After that I will be seeking further guarantees that ESP meets all the costs in full.

“Finally, since one of the members of ESP, Galliford Try, is still building schools under the SNP’s Scottish Futures Trust model, ministers need to offer assurances that any construction problems are not being repeated.”

However, the Greens also say that the implications go well beyond Edinburgh schools.

Green candidate for Lothian, Andy Wightman, said:

“The private financing of schools, invented by the Tories, and championed by Labour, is not only a feature of Edinburgh. Nor is it even restricted to schools, with hospitals and other health facilities also built in this way.

“So the Edinburgh school fiasco opens up a massive can of worms as to what the true legacy is of years of private financing of core public services.

“That is why Green MSPs, in the new parliament, will be demanding a root and branch review of all PPP/PFI contracts – the cost, the condition of buildings and the future funding of them if further failures are uncovered.

“Public confidence needs rebuilt as well as school walls; and fast.”