SNP Councillors have been accused of putting at risk £25m of Government funding for new schools in the region after proposing that plans for the Dumfries Learning Town should go back to the drawing board.
At a meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee today (17 November) SNP Councillors opposed agreeing the new scope and additional investment to deliver the Dumfries Learning Town project, despite council officers warning that the move by the SNP to send the plans back to the Council’s Education Committee to be reduced would put at risk Government funding and delay the project.
It would also mean revising the plans which include:
• Create a new community campus in North West Dumfries to provide facilities for the learners from Lochside and St Ninians Primary Schools, Maxwelltown High School and Langlands School for children with complex needs including a community library and sports hub;
• Redevelop St Joseph’s College;
• Build a new Learning Hub including provision currently provided at Elmbank;
Chair of the Council’s Education Committee Councillor Jeff Leaver said, “The Dumfries Learning Town project has been developed following significant consultation to get us to the stage where we have an exciting project that meets the ambitions of the community. The cost of the project is no different from other new schools we have built in other parts of the region and would address the historical anomalies whereby there has been no major investment in secondary schools in Dumfries for decades. It is being developed entirely within existing budgets utilising unallocated capital. Crucially it still leaves nearly £50 million agreed for investment in other schools and over £50 million unallocated during the lifetime of the current ten year capital strategy. I am astonished that the SNP now want to tear up the Learning Town proposals and go back to the drawing board. This is an utter betrayal of pupils and parents and also puts at risk £25m of Government funding towards Dalbeatttie Learning Campus and Dumfries Learning Town. The SNP have to come clean and explain to the people of Dumfries how much they want to cut from the project and which parts they would drop. Is it the new Maxwelltown High, the refurbishment of St Joseph’s college or the Learning Hub they don’t want to go ahead with? You cannot deliver all these projects within the funding the SNP were willing to allocate so local people have the right to know which parts they want to axe”.
Dalbeatte based Councillor David Stitt also hit out at the SNP move, expressing concern that it could lead to further delays in the Dalbeattie Learning Campus due to the fact the Government funding for Dumfries Learning Town is linked to funding for the Dalbeattie project. Councillor Stitt said, “I am really angry that the SNP would pull a stunt that could have led to yet more delays in work beginning on the new Dalbeattie Learning Campus and could even have put the project at risk. We are already facing delays the Scottish Government has failed to deliver the promised funding on time. But due to the way the funding works, the two projects are linked so revisiting Dumfries Learning Town and cutting the project has massive implications for the Dalbeattie project. The SNP Councillors time would be better spent trying to get the Scottish Government to deliver on the outstanding funding for Dalbeattie instead of trying to pull the plug on new schools in Dumfries”.
The SNP motion was defeated by an amendment to agree additional funding for the Dumfries learning Town primarily from unallocated capital funding without affecting agreed future projects.