Councillor queries schools budget

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Questions have been raised by independent councillor Ewan Smith over the varying costs published for the project to build Timmergreens and Warddykes primary schools.

He referred the issue to the full Angus Council meeting in Forfar yesterday (Thursday).

“The reason I felt it was important to refer the item is to get real control of how much money has been spent and how much is going to be spent going forward,” he said.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not want to stop the project from progressing. It is vital that it goes ahead.

“It is crucial that parents and carers know the schools will be completed and children are not going to be decanted permanently having to cross one of the busiest roads in the area to go to school.”

Despite his desire to complete, Councillor Smith is increasingly concerned about the handling of the budget costs and the lack of transparency with the public.

“When this project was first proposed, the indicative cost of the two schools was £10.2 million, with £400,000 left in the budget for small improvements to other schools,” he said.

“We were told Timmergreens could be completed for around £4 million but the latest cost we had from Muirfield Contracts prior to their recent problems was 22.5 per cent higher at £4.9 million.

“You have to question why there is such an increase. Was it that we underestimated the cost in the first place? If so, that is a big mistake because the money in the budget was £10.6 million. Now gross costs for both schools are £12.27 million - a £1.6 million increase in total cost and that is without the final bill.”

Mr Smith explained that he believes the information has been misleading in detailing where the additional money has been sourced from: “The children are clearly the most important thing here. We want to see the improvements to all schools in Arbroath but are we going to get to stage that we have underestimated costs so much that we can’t do so? Because that would be a travesty.

“The money is linked to education but it does mean that part of the money that was assigned for improvements to other schools in Angus has been used. As an Arbroath councillor I want as much money as possible to improve Arbroath but I also want to be fair to children across Angus. I don’t care less for a child there than one here.”