Reading council: Cost of new school places soars by £9m

The cost of creating more school places in Reading has soared by £9m, the council has said.

Higher construction fees mean the cost of creating 2,500 extra primary school places has gone up from £61m to £70m.

Council education head John Ennis has written to the education secretary to appeal for more government funding.

Mr Ennis said: "Unless extra government funding is made available, it presents some very real problems for Reading's school expansion programme."

'Very serious pressures'

Reading Borough Council said "an acute shortage" of labour in the South East was affecting trades such as bricklaying and carpentry, with the cost of building materials also "spiralling".

Mr Ennis said the extra £9m cost was a rise of 20% in "just three months".

He has written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to outline the "very serious pressures" Reading is facing and to request extra funding.

He said: "Things have moved on significantly since early last year when funding decisions on school expansions programmes were made by central government.

"Construction costs have spiralled since that time and continue to rise by the day.

"This is something we as a local council have absolutely no local control over, and it is only right that central government acknowledge this as fact and provide local councils like Reading with adequate funding to meet the demand for school places."

Latest census figures show a 34% population rise in Reading of children aged four and below in 10 years - the second highest rise in the South East since 2001.

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was giving the council "£35m from 2011-2015 to spend on new places - compared to just £8.4m by the previous government over an equivalent period".

He added there would be three schools open in the county by September and that the council would receive £586,000 to spend on new school places in 2015-17.

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