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Delays hit decisions on schools

TWO PRIVATELY-financed education projects in Blackburn and Essex, worth £20 million in total could be running into value-for-money problems.

Three bidders have been short-listed for a £10 million Private Finance Initiative proposal to relocate St Wilfred's comprehensive school in Blackburn.

But Norwest Holst, Babcock & Brown/Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine are still waiting for invitations to tender.

Insiders suggest the school believes the PFI is not providing value for money.

Essex County Council is also concerned about getting value for money from its £10 million PFI proposal for a secondary school.

The council is already warning contractors about u-turn on the contract. It hopes to let a 25- to 30-year concession, but admits in its prequalification notice: 'It is possible that this school will have to be provided via a traditional procurement.'

If privately-financed bids do not offer value for money, the job - to build a school at Buckhurst Hill or at Loughton - will be let as a design and build deal.