HOW does Powys County Council intend to fund its decade-long plan to transform and reorganise schools?

The first phase of school closures, mergers and new building projects, due to be rubber-stamped at a cabinet meeting next Tuesday, September 29, is estimated to cost more than £170 million.

PCC hopes it will only have to pay 35 per cent of the building costs, with the Welsh Government picking up the rest of the tab.

At a meeting on September 15, the cabinet voted to enter into an agreement with the Welsh Education Partnership company (WEPco).

This is a Mutual Investment Model that will be another funding stream available for building projects.

But, the report shows, control of projects for those financed in this way could be taken out of the council’s hands.

A maintenance contract with a private sector partner and subsidiary of the Welsh Development Bank of Wales, would also run for 25 years after the building work is finished,

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies (Blaen Hafren – Conservative), explained said: “It’s a very comprehensive document of some 1,500 pages, but the principle is the fact that it gives us another option other than capital funding for our schools estate.

“We are not saying that we will go down this road for our schools transformation, but it gives us the ability of looking at both options for each business case.”

Head of transformation and communications Emma Palmer said: “We need to sign up to that framework sooner rather than later to keep that door open.”

Cabinet have also voted to allow the chief executive Dr Caroline Turner, in consultation with the head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney, to make necessary tweaks to the contract and sign it off.

The report in front of councillors says that only some 21st century school building projects will qualify for the MIM.

The criteria is that the project would have to be a complete new build, or be worth more than £15 million. This could include several new build schools under one project banner.

Existing projects and Government funding

In four years PCC has completed 10 projects, one is in the construction phase (Welshpool CIW primary school) and a further eight at the design or early development stage.

The report says: “All projects to date have been funded through capital funding through a combination of supported borrowing, prudential borrowing, and use of reserves.”

Band A – have mostly been completed and received 50 per cent from Welsh Government’s 21st Century schools funding pot.

Band B – Developments that have been approved and planned up to 2024. They expect to receive 65 per cent funding, and special schools qualify for 75 per cent from the 21st Century schools funding pot.

The report shows that for the Band A school building projects,  PCC borrowed £27.4 million.

This costs PCC over £1 million a year in interest.

The remaining Band A and B projects to be competed is set to cost £45 million which the report says: “all of which will be borrowing.”

This debt will cost another £2.6 million a year to service.

Overall the report says that delivering the  10 year school transformation strategy will cost £350 million, which is on top of the £202 million that Band A and B projects will cost.

Band A is:

  • Brecon High School
  • Gwernyfed Catchment Primary
  • Carno, Glantwymyn Federation
  • Welshpool C in W School
  • Gwernyfed High School
  • Ysgol Calon Cymru – merged Llandrindod and Builth Wells High Schools

Band B is:

  • Ysgol Bro Hyddgen – Machynlleth
  • Ysgol Brynllywarch – special school near Kerry
  • Developments in Newtown – Cedewain Special School, new Welsh medium high school, new school building for the merged Ladywell Green Infants and Hafren Junior Schools
  • Welshpool High School refurbishment
  • Ysgol Gymraeg y Trallwng (Welshpool Welsh medium school)