HC Deb 11 July 2002 vol 388 cc1173-4W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what measures are being taken to ensure that the additional funds provided to local education authorities secure a significant reduction in the backlog on school building repairs identified in the 2001 Asset Management Plan: [678071

(2) when she will set a timetable for the elimination of the backlog on repairs to the school building stock; [67808]

(3) what steps she has taken to monitor annual progress towards the delivery of (a) new schools and (b) the refurbishment of schools as promised in the 2000 comprehensive spending review; [67809]

(4) what steps she is taking to ensure that the public funds allocated under the current comprehensive spending review are spent on (a) new schools and (b) refurbishment of schools. [67810]

Mr. Ivan Lewis

The great bulk of capital funding for schools is now allocated by formula to schools and local education authorities for them to address the investment priorities of their school buildings. These priorities are decided locally in the context of each authority's Asset Management Plan. The Department appraises each plan to ensure that prioritisation is done in an open, rigorous and consultative process, based on a full survey of the building needs of all the schools in the authority, and reflecting Government priorities. This process increases the amount and quality of local decision making and reduces the bureaucratic burden of bid based and hypothecated funding.

While we wish to see the backlog of repairs eliminated, and provided £1.3 billion of New Deal for Schools capital grant funded from the windfall tax from 1998 until 2001 directly to address the most urgent needs, we also wish to move away from the patch and mend approach of the past to a strategic modernisation of our schools. Subsequent capital funding, such as the £6.5 billion being made available over the two years to 2003–04, is intended both to address repair needs and to take forward the modernisation of schools for the teaching and learning needs of the 21st century. Progress on each of these objectives will depend on the balance of local priorities in each local authority between repairs and modernisation needs.

To reduce the bureaucratic burden, the Department does not require detailed information on how formulaic capital funding is invested. We do, however, have more detailed information on how capital funding is used from bid based programmes, including the New Deal for Schools from the windfall tax, the Private Finance Initiative and the Targeted Capital Fund, as well as investment in schools in the voluntary aided sector. Asset Management Plan returns provide periodic information on needs and, from this year, also on major capital projects in each authority. We have recently conducted a sample survey of the use of major formulaic programmes, and are considering how this information could be extended with minimum bureaucracy to provide evidence from which a national picture can be extrapolated.