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Schools: Construction

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps the Government has taken to reduce the administrative burden involved in the construction of new schools since 1997. (203733)

This Department does not determine the legislative framework for the construction industry. We are now providing record amounts of capital support for investment in schools, a sevenfold increase in real terms between 1997 and 2010. A key aim in providing this investment is to ensure the best value for money for the taxpayer. Some systems must be in place to ensure proper Government control of public finance. Areas which we must address include that local authorities have a robust strategic vision for the delivery of education in their areas, that the investment we are providing supports this and is prioritised to need, and that procurement efficiencies are achieved. Our aim is to keep requirements to a minimum commensurate with proper management.

Measures we have taken to keep bureaucracy to a minimum include:

reduction of bid-based capital allocations, with significant amounts allocated to schools and authorities each year by simple needs-related formulae, with three year certainty to support robust local planning and prioritisation;

local authority formulaic funding delivered through the Single Capital Pot to give local flexibility;

reduction of the amount of asset management data we require from authorities;

improvement and standardisation of Private Finance Initiative procedures;

setting up Partnerships for Schools to support the Department and local authorities in the delivery of Building Schools for the Future;

a new standardised procurement vehicle and processes for Building Schools for the Future investment, which Partnerships for Schools have reviewed and refined in consultation with stakeholders including the private sector;

significant simplification of the delivery of funding for the voluntary aided sector;

publication of innovative design guidance on many aspects of school buildings and facilities, including currently the development of Standard Specification Layouts and Dimensions guidance for components in school construction.

At all times, it is our intention to keep the management requirements for all programmes to a minimum, to provide effective guidance and support where it is needed, and to learn and improve continuously. For instance, by effective engagement with authorities about to enter Building Schools for the Future, Partnerships for Schools has shortened by six months their lead-in time.