COUNCIL plans to put a £150m school investment scheme on the backburner has been met with confusion and fighting talk.
Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hilllingdon council, addressed members of the Hillingdon Association for Secondary Headteachers (HASH), and announced that Hillingdon's "Building Schools for the 21 st Century" (BS21) scheme would be taking a back seat.
Although it was said that the commitment would only be postponed, some see it as a Conservative move to shun the plans ahead of the next election.
Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell reacted furiously to the news, saying that Hillingdon's reluctance to prepare early bids for the programme have seen the borough miss out on educational funding that has done so much to benefit other areas.
"I am so angry at this act of political spite and vandalism against my community - We will not stand by and let them put our children’s educational future at risk.
"The schools that desperately need the investment and modernisation will lose out. I am not going to take this lying down. I am calling for a community campaign to demand that the Council keeps its promise to sign up to this programme."
Fourteen schools in the Hillingdon, Uxbridge and Hayes have been earmarked for the investment, after an independent means test assessing the need for modernisation based on population and deprivation in the area, and allocating funds to the schools accordingly.
Sue Pryor, Headteacher at Swakeleys, one of the schools in line for the money, and Chair of HASH, said: "We have the opportunity to secure millions of pounds of investment to transform the dilapidated school building estate and to transform education for young people in Hillingdon. It would be devastating for us to lose out on this.
"We cannot afford to lose the momentum of the BS21 project and so we are relieved that the Leader of the Council has decided not to withdraw completely from the project but to ‘slow it down’."
Mr Pudifoot stood down most of the expert team assembled to prepare the bid, but was quick to ease fears and promised to revisit the scheme.
"Consultancy fees for this scheme are costing the council £370,000 a quarter, and the planning applications for the schools won't be ready until October or November. Because we can't do anything at this stage, we took the decision to cut these costs for the time being.
"We are always looking to be prudent with taxpayer's money, and this is a simple case in point.
"We have not stopped the programme."
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