Posted: Sun 27th Sep 2020

£15.8m investment in five new Denbighshire schools – as ‘PFI’ model debate held in secret

North Wales news and information

Councillors have voted to put £15.8m towards five new Denbighshire schools – but not using the Welsh Government’s new PFI-style funding model.

Denbighshire council’s cabinet rubber-stamped its contribution to what will be a £52m investment overall in new schools centred around Denbigh and Llangollen, in the first tranche of Band B of the 21st Century Schools programme.

Ysgol y Gwernant Welsh medium primary school and Ysgol Bryn Collen primary in Llangollen along with Ysgol Pendref primary school, Denbigh, and Denbigh High will benefit from new buildings as part of the deal.

In addition, Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn, a North Wales centre of excellence in teaching pupils with autism, will also see investment of almost £23.5m in a new building designed to meet demand for its services.

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts explained how three other projects had to be put back to a second phase after Welsh Government adjusted the funding for Denbighshire’s Band B proposals.

This means plans for new secondary schools at St Brigid’s, Denbigh, and Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen, along with a new primary school in Rhyl, will be revisited in 18 months time.
Speaking to cabinet, he said: “We will need to lobby Welsh Government for the second phase.
“Although we wanted to do all these projects at the same time, we have had to prioritise some.
“These are all based on a need because of the state of the buildings – Denbigh High is in a real state and in need of repair.
“Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn services the whole of Denbighshire and is bursting at the seams.
“These 21st Century schools can make a big difference to our carbon footprint. This is alongside creating exemplar learning environments.”

For now at least, Denbighshire council has stepped back from financing the projects through Welsh Government’s Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

That involves signing up to a 10-year agreement with a new company formed between Welsh Government, the Development Bank of Wales and French developer Meridiam in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, a variation on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding.

Councils would submit proposals to the new company, which would fund the building if approved, then charge it back over a minimum 25 year lease, with the  building returned to ownership of the council at the end.

The local authority would pay 19% of the yearly fees and Welsh Government the remainder.
Neighbouring Conwy recently signed a partnership agreement with the new company, called WEPCo, and other authorities in North Wales are expected to follow suit.

However, Denbighshire decided to hold a secret discussion about the new MIM partnership in part two of the cabinet meeting, which excluded press and public.

Welsh Government has already told councils they will need to enter into a MIM agreement if they want to “access revenue funding for Band B (new build schools) projects”, adding “there are no alternative delivery options for such funding”.

Refurbishment and extensions of schools will still be capital funded projects arranged by the council and applying to Cardiff for grant funding if necessary.

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter



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