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Wates seeks more detail on £2bn school building plans

Wates has hailed the government’s response to the James review of school building as a positive step but the contractor is urging the government to provide more detail on its new investment plans.

The firm’s head of education Stephen Beechey told Construction News: “It’s really positive news. We were all concerned that it was going to get delayed and were not going to get an announcement until October [after parliamentary recess] so it’s positive that this statement was made.”

Speaking to parliament yesterday, education secretary Michael Gove launched a new privately financed school building programme, worth up to £2 billion, to improve as many as 300 schools in poor condition across the country.

Mr Gove said the programme will be open to schools previously promised funding under Building Schools for the Future, as well as individual schools, academies and local authorities.

Mr Beechey said that Wates were “excited” by the prospect of gaining work through the new scheme but it was not clear how this would be different from Private Finance Initiatives delivered through BSF.

“We’re waiting to find out what changes will be made. There is no time frame or detail. The refinancing is shared 50:50, but will other things be shared 50:50? How much will the returns be taxed? Will [new contracts] include hard facilities management and not soft facilities management?,” he said.

Michael Gove also said that the government was willing to adopt a number of the James review’s proposals  after a “thorough” consultation is carried out.

The measures the government support include adopting greater standardisation of design and conducting a nationwide survey of the conditions of schools.

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