Taxpayer saddled with debt of up to £100 million for empty or demolished schools

The Independent reports that dozens of empty or demolished schools will reportedly cost taxpayers £100million in the next two decades as local authorities are left saddled with the lease of the buildings from private companies.

The schools were built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme where private firms paid for the buildings and leased them back to the government for up to 40 years.

The Labour government rolled out the programme which has since been shelved in 1997, to boost public spending without tapping into the Treasury for funds.

But dozens of the premises have since closed down due to falling pupil numbers, poor performance or structural flaws – yet local authorities must pay for the leases until the end of the contracts.

Fresh data turned up today after a Freedom of Information request to 171 local councils in England, Northern Ireland and Wales by The Sunday Telegraph shows the spiralling cost of PFI debts.

Parklands High School in Liverpool closed down in 2014, having previously been put into special measures. The building is empty but Liverpool City Council – which is desperately trying to find a buyer – still has £58.9million left to pay off by 2028. Joe Anderson, the Liverpool mayor, has called it “the most expensive PFI school in history”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is very rare for a school to close down but if this does happen an alternative use for the building should be sought in order to ensure value for money – this applies whether the school has been funded through private finance or through traditional capital funding.”

Read more Taxpayer saddled with debt of up to £100 million for empty or demolished schools

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