Councillor says we can’t waste money

An Arbroath councillor has hit out over mistakes by Angus Council, following the revelation that a new primary school will open over capacity.

Councillor Ewan Smith said the council had been guilty of being “wasteful,” after it was revealed that the new Timmergreens Primary will open with a school roll at 103 per cent capacity.

He said: “The one thing I find unforgivable as a councillor is wasting public money.

‘‘At a time where we are making extreme cutbacks to every day services, the council is still guilty of being wasteful.

“There has been such a rush to get Timmergreens and Warddykes built and open that mistakes have been made.

‘‘Timmergreens is due to open with a projected roll that is 103 per cent capacity.

‘‘This isn’t something that has happened by mistake or come out of the blue. It was predicted for several years in the school roll projection figures and I warned that by halving the size of the school we were making it too small.

“I’ve already had a constituent complain to me that her child can’t get a place at the school despite going to nursery there and it’s farcical this should happen before the ribbon is even cut.

‘‘The other huge mistake we’ve made is spending a substantial amount of money on a school that is now likely to be knocked down and rebuilt.

“I was assured by officials that the £400,000 spent upgrading Muirfield internally and externally just 18 months ago would be ‘good value’ as it would save money in the long term refurbishment of the school.

‘‘Now, every penny of that will become dust if - as expected - the school is bulldozed. There has to be a strategic plan to the school estate. We can’t waste any more money.”

While he welcomed news that the Scottish Government has offered funding for two new schools in the area, he added: “There is a misconception that this is ‘free money’ for the council. It isn’t. It comes with the caveat that Angus Council needs to find 50 per cent of the build cost for the new schools so we are talking about millions of pounds - a lot of which has still to be accounted for in our future budgets.”

Cllr Smith also highlighted the need to improve schools in the right way, commenting: “We need to be sure the new schools are big enough to accommodate not just the first year’s school roll but future school rolls.

‘‘There are housing developments in catchment at Muirfield which - if they go ahead - will have a huge impact on the roll numbers.

‘‘Ladyloan already has a rising school roll so that needs to be considered as well to avoid the farcical situation we are seeing with the new Timmergreens that is opening - over-capacity - on day one.”