Birmingham & Black Country

Druid Heath's disused Baverstock Academy costs council £241k

The Baverstock Academy site Image copyright Google
Image caption The school in Druids Heath has been vacant since August 2017

A council paying for security at a school no pupil has attended for two years has incurred costs of £241,000 that it cannot afford.

There is no budget to cover the sum this year, admits Birmingham City Council, citing a "financial risk".

Since August 2017 Baverstock Academy in Druids Heath has been vacant - a site the authority wants to demolish under plans to regenerate the wider estate.

In the meantime, it is spending thousands to keep away vandals.

The site has been hit by break-ins, trespassing and fly-tipping since the government shut the school following damning Ofsted reports and allegations of financial irregularity.

When it closed, despite being an academy, responsibility for the building passed back to the council, leaving it statutorily obliged to keep it secure.

According to a council report, the authority has been paying for a 24-hour security guard at a cost of about £120,000 a year, scaling down patrols in June of 2018 - to an annual rate of £28,000 - when crime slowed.

But the council says there has since been a crime increase, adding the city-wide budget for such matters is less than a third of the £241,000 bill incurred by the single site.

A spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that this is a budget pressure for this year as the budget for managing education surplus properties is £67k.

"We are currently awaiting approval from the secretary of state to dispose of the building and the surrounding land.

"If this is not forthcoming by the end of the current financial year, then we will continue to incur these costs."

Image copyright Wild Pictures Ltd
Image caption Former head teacher Thomas Marshall has been banned from teaching

Six months prior to the school's closure by the government, a former interim principal said it was "broken" and had "no future".

It emerged in March of this year that another former head, Thomas Marshall, had been banned from teaching after a disciplinary panel found problems in recruitment procedures relating to a period between 2012 and 2015.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the £241,000 bill also includes business rates the authority is having to pay due to government rules.

'Unmitigated disaster'

The Labour-run council says it is making an application to become exempt from the rates on the basis the building is uninhabitable.

"If agreed, this will have a positive impact on the £241,000," the spokeswoman said.

At a committee meeting about authority resources, Liberal Democrat member Paul Tilsley called the situation "an unmitigated disaster".

Tristan Chatfield, Labour member and committee chief, agreed, but added: "Unfortunately it's one of these ones where the academisation of our schools system has consequences for us as a local authority and that has a financial implication."

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