School building programme won't be complete on time after £50m underspend

A flagship government school building programme underspent by more than 64 per cent 2016-17 and will now not be completed on time, the Department for Education has admitted.

The second phase of the priority school building programme, also known as PSBP2, is supposed to rebuild or refurbish buildings at 277 schools by the end of 2021.

But data published by the DfE today shows that, as a result of over-ambitious forecasts, the £77 million investment planned for 2016-17 was underspent by more than £50 million, and the completion date has been pushed back to December 2022.

The project has been given an “amber/red” rating in the department’s latest “major project portfolio data” release.

According to the government, the roll-out of PSBP2 was supposed to be smoother, but it “immediately became clear” that “some of the forecasts were too ambitious”.

This is because a large number of PSBP2 projects were refurbishment works, and feasibility studies “were more complex” compared to PSBP1, which meant they lasted longer.”

Progress on the first phase of the priority school building programme, dubbed PSBP1, is rated “amber/green” by the department.

However, the government continues to experience “a lack of interest from contractors in the new batches of schools being released into procurement and contractors continue to seek additional funding”.

“This has resulted in delays against our internal delivery programme, expenditure slipping backwards and an increase in the overall cost to deliver the programme.”

The government now expects PSBP1 to be completed by September 19 2021, and PSBP2 by December 31 2022.