Councillors in Calderdale have agreed to spend almost £500,000 to help keep schools safe.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet green lighted the cash after being told asset management plans, used to closely monitor its school buildings, are around ten years out of date for the borough’s older schools and additionally more intensive surveys were needed to assess any risk posed by the presence of asbestos in older properties.
Three incidents which might have resulted in serious injuries in recent years could have been prevented, or at least the risk minimised, if regular surveys and planned maintenance programmes had been carried out, they heard.
Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said it was time new in-depth reports were compiled.
The council’s Deputy Leader Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said this was substantial investment and was not before time.
“The health and safety of our workforce and children is absolutely paramount,” she said.
Councillors approved spending an estimated £301,000 on new school asset management plans, around £114,000 on revised asbestos management surveys and £80,000 to fund a two-year contract for a full-time assistant project manager to oversee their successful completion.
Briefing papers to councillors said service re-organisation and job cuts affecting staff who undertook those duties in recent years had meant “minimal resource” were put into the tasks in the last decade.
And that asset management plans were crucial can be shown by the warning to councillors that: “The very real risks associated with the current reactive approach can be demonstrated through three separate incidents that have occurred in recent years across the school estate.
“These incidents had potential to cause serious injury to building occupants and one signalled the need to build a new primary school.
“Fortunately, there were no casualties from any of these incidents,” according to the briefing papers, which did not spell out the full nature of the incidents or where they happened.
Despite limited funds available in the last decade, the council has rebuilt a number of schools in that time including Cliffe Hill at Lightcliffe; Siddal, Moorside and Copley, all Halifax; and Ferney Lee in Todmorden – all primary schools – as well as completing work on a new block at Todmorden High School.
The decision means asset management plans will be re-commissioned for 45 primary schools and four secondary schools in the council’s care, and asbestos management surveys, commissioned in line with updated Government requirements, will cover 37 primary schools, three secondary schools and one pupil referral unit.
Although a partial asbestos survey was carried out between 2008 and 2011, the surveys were not intrusive and did not include inspections of voids, for example below floors and behind walls, above ceilings and all pipework, councillors were told.