New school places to be delivered despite €40m repair costs

Joe McHugh refuses to reveal remediation costs of Western Building Systems schools

A school in Co Dublin built by Western Building Systems which required remedial work. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

A school in Co Dublin built by Western Building Systems which required remedial work. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

The Government has insisted that thousands of planned new school places will be delivered despite the cost of fixing building defects in dozens of schools climbing to more than €40 million.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has refused to say how much the cost of remediation works on schools built by Western Building Systems has cost the taxpayer.

However, sources say the bill is currently in the region of €40 million and is likely to cost tens of millions more before remediation work is completed on a total of 40 schools.

This money will need to be taken from the Department of Education’s existing capital budget for building new schools and colleges.

It comes at a time where there is acute pressure to deliver new schools and renovate old buildings due to a demographic bulge moving through the education system.

The department has also been forced to divert almost €20 million from its planned capital budget for next year to meet growing demands for resources in special needs and general teaching provision.

This has been the first cut to the department’s capital budget in six years.

But sources say the higher than anticipated sale of the DIT building on Kevin has eased pressure on the department’s budget.

The buildings were sold for €60 above the guide price earlier this year, which means less money will be required to fund the new Technological University Dublin campus in Grangegorman.

The department is taking legal action against Western Building Systems on foot of structural safety concerns and will be seeking to recoup repair costs.

The firm, however, has insisted that the department had the final sign-off on the school buildings and is contesting the legal actions.

So far, sources say defects in a total 14 schools have been repaired and work is due to start on a further eight schools in the new year.

Plans are being drawn up to tackle issues in a further 17 schools from next summer onwards, though there is no timescale yet for when this work will be completed.

Separately, the Government has insisted that the school building programme this year and next is progressing as planned and will deliver more than 30,000 school places and the replacement of about 600 prefabs.