Pressure on Calderdale Council to spend £500K to keep schools safe

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

Calderdale Council Cabinet is being asked to approve spending almost £500,000 to keep schools safe.

Cabinet has been told monitoring facilities are 10 years out of date for the borough's older schools to assess risk posed by the presence of asbestos in older properties.

Three incidents, which could have resulted in serious injuries in recent years, could have been prevented if regular planned maintenance programmes had been carried out, councillors have been told.

Briefing papers, which did not state where the incidents happened, said: "The real risks associated with the current reactive approach can be demonstrated through three separate incidents that have occurred in recent years.

"These incidents had potential to cause serious injury to building occupants and one signalled the need to build a new primary school.

"There were no casualties from any of these incidents."

Cabinet will be asked when it meets at Halifax Town Hall at 6pm on Monday to approve spending an estimated £301,000 on new school asset management plans, and around £114,000 on revised asbestos management surveys, and £80,000 to fund a two-year contract for a full-time assistant project manager to oversee their successful completion.

Service re-organisation and job cuts affecting staff who undertook these duties in recent years means "minimal resource" has been put into these tasks in the last decade, Cabinet has been told.

Despite limited funds available in the last decade, the council has rebuilt a number of schools in that time.

These schools include Cliffe Hill at Lightcliffe; Siddal, Moorside and Copley, all Halifax; and Ferney Lee in Todmorden - all primary schools - as well as completing work on a new block at Todmorden High School.

The briefing papers said current asset management plans are "far from ideal" and need to be re-commissioned for 45 primary schools and four secondary schools in the council's care at a cost of £301,000.

Asbestos management surveys, commissioned in line with updated Government requirements, will cover 37 primary schools.

Three secondary schools and one pupil referral unit at an estimated cost of £114,000.

The three secondary schools are pre-1986 buildings, which may contain brown or blue asbestos, of which use had been prohibited since 2000 with voluntary bans in place before that.

Although a partial asbestos survey was carried out between 2008 and 2011, the surveys were not intrusive and did not include inspections of voids: for example, below floors and behind walls, above ceilings and all pipework, councillors have been told.