RAAC

RAAC: Treasury snubbed 10-year school rebuild funds, says ex-minister

Lord Agnew says he had 'probably 10 meetings' to try to get a 'long-term envelope' confirmed

Lord Agnew says he had 'probably 10 meetings' to try to get a 'long-term envelope' confirmed

Lord Agnew

The Treasury rejected attempts to secure funding for the full 10 years of the current school rebuilding programme amid concern about RAAC, a former minister has claimed.

Lord Agnew, who as academies minister between 2017 and 2020 was responsible for school capital spending, told GB News he had “probably 10 meetings with the Treasury” to try to “get them to give me a long-term envelope” but “they wouldn’t do it”.

The claims will put further pressure on the government amid criticism of inaction over the dangers of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in the school estate, which has now resulted in the partial closure of at least 147 schools.

Rishi Sunak was accused last week of cutting school rebuilding funding despite warnings over a “critical risk to life” when he was chancellor by former DfE boss Jonathan Slater.

The prime minister presided over the announcement of the rebuilding programme in 2020, and according to Slater made the decision to only rebuild around 50 schools a year.

Schools Week revealed last week how dozens of schools with RAAC had either had planned rebuilds scrapped or bids for work rejected over the past 10 years.

In 2020, then prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans for a new 10-year school rebuilding programme. Under the scheme, 500 schools are due to be fully or partially re-built over the coming decade.

Initial funding of £1 billion for the first tranche of schools was announced, but future funding has not been confirmed by the government.

‘They wouldn’t do it’

Agnew, who subsequently served as a Treasury minister before resigning last year over the government’s handling of Covid business loan fraud, said he told the Treasury to “give me a 10 year envelope of money”.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

“[It] doesn’t have to be any more, but then I can go out to the building industry and say ‘here is a 10 year programme so that you can tool up for dealing with these refurbishments’. They wouldn’t do it.

“They said it has to sit within the spending review, but I said to them ‘well are we not going to have any schools at the end of the spending review?’ I said ‘what’s going to happen at the end of the year or the three-year spending review?’ And of course they don’t have any answer.”

Schools Week revealed last week that ten schools with RAAC had applications to the new rebuilding programme rejected.

Agnew said RAAC had been “on the agenda for years” and questioned why government waited until the last week of the school holidays to take action.

“They could have done it at the beginning of the holidays couldn’t they?”

The Treasury was approached for comment.

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