Ultimatum for Pimlico school governors

6 Jan 00
The fate of the controversial Private Finance Initiative scheme at London's Pimlico school is likely to be resolved in the next two weeks after five years of acrimony.

07 January 2000

In the latest twist, the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) has given the school governors an ultimatum to back the scheme and give way on two outstanding issues.

In a letter to the governors, the DfEE reiterated its support for the rebuilding of the school instead of refurbishment as 'the most appropriate option'. Officials have asked the governing body to 'consider' the two issues – the disposal of part of the school's playing fields and a reduction in the size of the playing fields to below the DfEE's own guidelines. Neither is acceptable to the governing body.

A DfEE spokesman claimed that the belief in the rebuilding option was 'shared by Westminster City Council, where the proposal is supported by all parties, and the majority of the school governing body. The governing body is closely involved in ongoing negotiations and there remains the possibility of support from all sides.'

However, the majority of governors are now united in their rejection of the scheme. The chair of the governors, Europe Singh, said they would not back the scheme because the arguments were not rational. He added: 'This is no longer about the provision of education; it has become a political issue. The only way this scheme can go ahead is if the DfEE says we are unreasonable and takes over our powers.'

In November, the DfEE said the scheme would not happen without the 'unequivocal support of the governors', but this commitment is now in doubt.

The DfEE spokesman refused to confirm that the department would end the project if it did not have the full support of the governors.

Westminster City Council is keen for a solution to be found. Chief executive Bill Roots said the lack of consensus between the governors was hampering the council's education provision. He said: 'The current state of affairs means our hands are tied until the government decides what to do. The LEA cannot move ahead in this situation.'


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