Edinburgh PPP schools fiasco: trust gulf remains, say Greens

Green councillors have claimed a “trust gulf” remains between school communities in Edinburgh affected by a buildings fiasco in 2016 and the private company in charge of the schools. 

City of Edinburgh Council has today published a report on the draft settlement it has reached with private finance company Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) following the building quality scandal exposed in several PPP1 schools in 2016 and subsequently.

Starting at Oxgangs Primary School but also affecting 16 other schools in the city, a number of significant construction defects emerged, including the safety of walls, roofs and fire protection. Since that time the City Council has been in negotiation with ESP over its liability and future arrangements. The results of those negotiations have been published today.

Local Green councillor Gavin Corbett said:

“Almost three years after the first serious wall collapse, we can never lose sight of the huge upheaval and stress which the PPP schools fiasco caused. On top of that, ESP has failed to be available and answerable to the school communities affected. So whatever ESP now agrees to do, there’s a huge gulf in trust that I don’t see ever being fully bridged.

“On the face of it, the draft settlement looks like progress, more than meeting the costs faced by the council, introducing tighter inspection and reporting arrangements for school buildings and including a modest increase in opening hours for out of school use.

“However, the PPP1 contract still has until August 2033 to run. So the proof of the pudding will still very much be in the eating. ESP and their on-site school company Amey have to be squeaky-clean in managing and maintaining these schools; they have to be 100% transparent with parents and school staff; and the buildings themselves need to be kept in excellent condition before they are handed over to the council at the end of the contract.”

Cllr Corbett added:

“While I welcome the report there are still some questions to be posed. Why, for example, do we not yet have final fire safety certificates at two schools, Royal High and Craigmount? Are the new letting arrangements for out of school use as much as we can get, given significant and rising demand from sports clubs for school use? And more fundamentally, when will there be an open and honest recognition that the PPP model of funding schools has been a failed experiment?”