Welsh Government should 'detail benefits' of £1.5bn schools modernisation programme

25 May 17

The Welsh Government could do more to ensure value for money for its £1.5bn school modernisation programme, a Welsh Audit Office report has concluded.

Detailed expectations of what benefits and environmental standards the modernisation of school buildings will bring should be outlined, the conclusions out yesterday stated.

The Welsh administration needed to “make adjustments in response to proposed changes in approach and funding to get better value from future public sector investment”, the Audit Office found.

Although, the regulator noted the Welsh Government was “generally managing the programme well”.

Huw Vaughan-Thomas, auditor general, said the programme – called the 21st Century Schools and Education programme - had “improved greatly on the previous approach to capital investment in our schools.”

He praised the way it had taken a longer-term view of the investment required. 

“As the Welsh Government finalises its plans for the next phase of investment, from 2019 onwards, there is a need to focus now on some key areas such as managing the risks of a new type of funding and ensuring that the good collaborative working between Welsh Government and local government continues," Vaughan-Thomas added.

The first phase of the project, Band A, is underway with the Welsh Government, local councils and further education institutions collectively spending around £1.5bn so far in the long-term plan to improve the condition and suitability of Wales’ schools.

“The Welsh Government put in place robust processes for reviewing projects and it has continued to strengthen those arrangements," the Welsh Audit Office report said. 

"It also has adopted a flexible approach to managing the programme’s finances.  Few projects, so far, have gone over-budget.”

The plan was announced in 2009 and started in 2014 and the report notes that it is “broadly on track” to meet its targets.

Of the 169 planned schools and further education projects in the programme, 132 schools and six further education schemes have received formal approval, of these, 59 are complete.

The Welsh government is firming up its plans for Band B, which will run from 2019-20 to 2023-24. 

Its proposals include providing around £500m through a new public-private finance arrangement known as the Mutual Investment Model.

Under this model, contractors would design, build and maintain the new buildings and the public sector would pay a service charge for 25 years. 

The Welsh government intends to put in place arrangements to ensure it shares in any profits from the model.

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