Some things you can’t put off any longer, and Calderdale Council Cabinet is being asked to approve spending almost £500,000 to help keep schools safe.
Cabinet has been told asset management plans, used to closely monitor its school buildings, are around ten years out of date for the borough’s older schools and additionally more intensive surveys are needed to assess any risk posed by the presence of asbestos in older properties.
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Three incidents which could have resulted in serious injuries in recent years could have been prevented, or at least the risk minimised, if regular surveys and planned maintenance programmes had been carried out, councillors have been told.
Cabinet will be asked when it meets at Halifax Town Hall on Monday, November 4, at 6pm, to approve spending an estimated £301,000 on new school asset management plans, 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.
And that asset management plans are crucial can be shown by the warning to councillors that: “The very real risks associated with the current reactive approach can be demonstrated through three separate incidents that have occurred in recent years across the school estate.
“These incidents had potential to cause serious injury to building occupants and one signalled the need to build a new primary school.
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“Fortunately, there were no casualties from any of these incidents,” says the briefing papers, which do not spell out the full nature of the incidents or where they happened.
Despite limited funds available in the last decade, the council has rebuilt a number of schools in that time including 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.
But current asset management plans are “far from ideal”, says the paper, 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.
And 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 – these 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.