Renfrewshire Council ‘failing to learn’ from £60m primary school size blunder

Renfrewshire Council 'failing to learn' from £60m primary school size blunder

Renfrewshire Council has been warned that it risks repeating past mistakes that led it to miscalculate the size of a new primary school.

The local authority previously came under fire after it underestimated how many primary school places were needed when the new school was built at Dargavel in Bishopton.

It is understood the miscalculation left families moving on to the new-build estate several hundred primary school places short of what they could have reasonably expected.

It has been estimated the council will need to spend another £60m to create the required capacity to meet its revised primary and secondary school place projections.

Now the Accounts Commission has criticised the council for failing to properly engage with the public and said it faces significant challenges in rebuilding the trust of local people.

Audit work found that, overall, the council has effective governance arrangements in place, and an action plan to address the numerous specific failings identified in the independent review.

However, the Commission said these actions must be implemented quickly and transparently, particularly those regarding leadership, scrutiny and governance, and that the council must show it is engaging better with its communities.

The Commission has asked auditors to urgently investigate a range of issues at the council by June 2024. It reserves the right to hold a public hearing if it is not satisfied with the findings.

Andrew Burns, member of the Accounts Commission, said: “The multiple, negative impacts of poor decision-making, and a culture that meant warnings were not heeded, continue to be felt within the local community. This potentially affects the education of hundreds of children and will cost an estimated £60 million to rectify. Further, this will exacerbate an already tough financial situation for the council, and it will need to make difficult decisions about prioritising its spending.

“It appears to the community that no one has been held to account for these significant failings until now. We have therefore asked for assurance on a range of issues, and if we fail to get that we reserve the right to hold a public hearing into the council.”

A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We note (and accept) criticism of our initial engagement on the council’s decision to extend Park Mains, but the rationale for this and the financial and educational impacts of the alternatives have since been shared in detail, and we can evidence wide and positive engagement as we have progressed our planning.

“The decision to extend the school is welcomed by the majority of the Park Mains school community.

“We fully accept it will take time to rebuild trust, and communities have the right to be angry at the situation. We remain committed to getting things right for families in Dargavel and the wider Park Mains school community, to expanding school capacity and providing the best possible educational experience for local children, and to ensuring all local stakeholders are engaged and their voices heard.”

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