Compromise over new Islwyn school plans

2:41pm Thursday 5th June 2014

CAERPHILLY council has decided to use both internal and external staff to work on the building of a new school in Oakdale.

Last month, a decision to outsource the design of a new £18 million secondary school to private contractors was deferred for further consideration by Caerphilly council’s cabinet.

A controversial recommendation to use external cost consultants, contract and project managers, and designers from the private sector was initially put forward to the cabinet.

But at a cabinet meeting yesterday, members passed on a compromise to use internal design services until the award of a construction contract, and external project management and contract management services throughout.

It comes as a result of proposals to close the existing Pontllanfraith and Oakdale comprehensive schools and build a new school on the Oakdale Plateau 3.

Islwyn West would then be served by the existing Blackwood Comprehensive and a new school site, with the council having secured sufficient funding to deliver the project.

Plaid Cymru had questioned a recommendation not to use in-house staff, claiming it would put jobs in jeopardy. The council’s trade union, UNISON, had also raised concerns.

In reaction to yesterday’s decision, Cllr Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said: “I’m pleased that the cabinet has recognised the concerns expressed by myself, the trades unions and the staff involved. The issue was thoroughly debated by scrutiny last week and it is right that cabinet accepted the recommendation from the scrutiny committee.

“The use of the in-house design team alongside outside consultants is a compromise which, I hope, will now preserve all in-house jobs. But really the idea of completely out-sourcing should never have got to the stage of a report being prepared for cabinet.”

The new school is scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2016-17 school term, although the council admits the timescale is ‘challenging’.

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