Home Business News Treasury knew years ago there was a ‘critical risk to life’ for school children amid the concrete crisis

Treasury knew years ago there was a ‘critical risk to life’ for school children amid the concrete crisis

by LLB political Reporter
4th Sep 23 1:51 pm

It has been revealed that the Treasury already knew that there was a “critical risk to life” if the schools programme was not provided with more funding.

The Prime Minister has been accused of halving the size of the funding for schools when he was the Chancellor in 2021.

Last week news broke that specific type of concrete used in some schools, called “reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete” (RAAC) which is a lightweight form of concrete could collapse.

In June the National Audit Office said there is a risk of death or injury and warned the risk of collapse is “very likely and critical.”

The Prime Minister has said on Monday that there could now be around 1,100 schools that could be impacted by the crumbling concrete.

He insists that out around 22,000 schools across England 95% of them are not affected by the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

The former permanent secretary at the Department for Education (DfE) has now publicly stated that when Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor they believed that they would “get it,” referring to the funding.

Jonathan Slater, was the permanent secretary at the DfE from May 2016 to August 2020, said  said that up to 400 schools a year need to be replaced.

Slater said, but the DfE got funding for just 100 schools while he was the senior official, and acknowledged that this was “frustrating.”

Slater said that when he left the DfE he was “optimistic” there would be extra funding to build 200 schools a year.

The former permanent secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “The actual ask in the Spending Review of 2021 was to double the 100 to 200 – that’s what we thought was going to be practical at first instance.

“I thought we’d get it, but the actual decision that the chancellor took in 2021 was to halve the size of the programme.”

However, the Prime Minister insists that 50 schools a year is in line with what had previously taken place over the past ten years.

Sunak said that Slater slamming him is “completely and utterly wrong.”

Speaking to reporters the Prime Minister added, “Actually, one of the first things I did as chancellor, in my first spending review in 2020, was to announce a new 10-year school re-building programme for 500 schools.

“Now that equates to about 50 schools a year, that will be refurbished or rebuilt.

“If you look at what we have been doing over the previous decade, that’s completely in line with what we have always done.”

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said, “The defining image of 13 years of the Conservative-run education system will be children sat under steel girders to stop the roof falling in.”

Phillipson said the Prime Minister “bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle.”

She added, “Ministers need to come clean about the number of schools affected, what they knew, and when they knew, about the risks posed by Raac so that parents can be reassured their children are safe at school.”

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson blasted, “This bombshell revelation shows the blame for this concrete crisis lies firmly at Rishi Sunak’s door.

“He slashed funding to repair crumbling classrooms when officials said it needed to be increased.

“Now children and parents across the country are paying the price for this disastrously short-sighted decision.”

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