A Swindon TPA supporter draws our attention to the continuing farce of Croft School. As pupils enter the new school, they find it is still largely a building site—and one that is estimated to cost Swindon taxpayers a further £700,000 at least.
Swindon Borough Council blame the delay in finishing the primary school next to Croft Sports Centre on delays in getting planning approval. They originally meant to spend £4.5m, but now expect to take £500,000 from their contingency fund and a further £200,000 from their capital budget. A council spokesman also blamed groundworks problems caused by the wet summer as well as the additional cost of fencing off the building site to protect pupils and staff.
Croft School is just one of several delayed council building projects in Swindon. ‘We’re terribly bad at giving reasonable answers when things should be completed so we make ourselves look bad,’ says one councillor. ‘It does seem to be a Swindon habit to underestimate the time it’s going to take and, blow me, get the time wrong. It’s just as well we didn’t run the Olympics.’
Croft School is the first to be built under the council’s pioneering ‘modular class solutions design’. Swindon is trying to sell the design to other authorities on the basis that it is a third cheaper to construct than traditional schools, quicker to build and cheaper to run. Oh dear! But the council says the ongoing delays have nothing at all to do with the revolutionary new design. No—maybe it’s to do with the council itself?
Certainly local taxpayers are unimpressed by their track record. ‘Let’s not forget the £1m spent on the construction and administration of a 60-pupil temporary school sited at the Croft,’ recalls one resident, ‘which opened with 11 pupils and closed with 15. And sat empty on the site for almost eight months.’ The temporary school was not needed, claims locals, but went ahead purely as a ‘Trojan horse’ to ensure that planning permission would be granted for the 420-pupil Croft School, as the temporary school justified the site as previously developed land. And yet the council is now blaming delays in planning approval for the overspend…
‘So now we know why services, like repairing street light failures are not a priority as the kitty is becoming so bare,’ says another Swindon resident. ‘We have had four vital street lights out since June 15th! How come they can summon up extra cash for this fiasco and yet cannot do the services we should all expect as council taxpayers?’
Talking of switched off lights, nearby Somerset County Council is determined to press ahead with plans to turn off local streetlights in order to save £120,000 in electricity fees. The only problem is it’s going to cost £775,000 to do it! Another excellent use of taxpayers’ money?