West Lothian Council seeks Holyrood cash for RAAC

Wednesday September 27th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

West Lothian Council is to ask Holyrood for the £53m it has spent tackling RAAC problems in its schools and community centres.

A meeting of the full council also voted to lobby the Scottish Government for the creation of a national fund to help councils through the crisis.

And Labour branded the Holyrood response to the problem of crumbling concrete roof planks as “RAAC and ruin.”

In response, the SNP group argued that Westminster should pay as the problem pre-dated devolution – and said that the Scottish Government did not have the money that would be needed to meet a Scotland wide repair bill.

Councillors backed a motion calling for “the Scottish Government to act to help councils meet unavoidable costs associated with RAAC.”

Calling for a national fund, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, the council and Labour group leader, said: “We are all aware of the difficulties we have had. There is an outstanding await for a £24m request for the replacement school for Riverside Primary. This has been waiting for the rubber stamp since December.

“The Scottish Government has issued no guidance to education authorities in Scotland. We are having to get a further report on St Kent’s Academy. We have been at the very front of dealing with this issue.

“The First Minister is requested to confirm that if any Barnett Consequentials [UK funding] for RAAC pass to the Scottish Government that must be wholly applied to RAAC. The safety of our children is a priority.”

Lib Dem councillor Sally Pattle, who first called for a national fund in June, told the meeting: “West Lothian’s proactive approach means that we are at the vanguard of this. Of course this also means that the costs have been self funded up until now and that means a bill in excess of £50m.

“The Scottish Government simply haven’t taken the repeated warnings they have received seriously. They have been left completely on the back foot, even after the media storm began this summer.

“The Scottish Liberal Democrats are now calling for a national fund to help councils and other public bodies make buildings constructed using RAAC safe. I hope my fellow councillors will support this motion and urgently call on the Scottish government to fully fund council for costs associated with RAAC including compensation for remedial works.”

For the SNP, Councillor Robert De Bold raised an amendment calling on the UK to establish a national fund to make buildings safe. He argued that buildings using RAAC had been constructed to UK building standards 30 years or more before devolution.

Councillor De Bold said the Scottish Government had commissioned a RAAC survey and issued results to all councils in 2022.

He added: “Concerns regarding RAAC had been raised in the 1980s. By 1996 the Building Research Establishment, an executive agency of the UK government issued a warning about the useful life of RAAC and a proposal was made to remove the reference to RAAC from the British Standard for structural concrete.

“Consequently RAAC is a UK wide problem that requires a UK wide resolution.”

SNP group leader Janet Campbell told the meeting: “RAAC was used throughout the United Kingdom and Western Europe after it was invented in Sweden in the 30s and was widely used in public sector buildings in the UK from the 1950s to the 1990s. Crucially well before devolution and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament. Not my words, lifted entirely from the United Kingdom government website.”

She added: “I would like to take the time here to congratulate West Lothian’s Chief Executive and lead officers who have pro-actively sought to secure public buildings within our county.

“However to suggest the Scottish Government is on the back foot is wholly and totally inaccurate. Since 2007 and under an SNP controlled government schools have had an enormous investment. Far more investment than in the previous seven or eight years since devolution. Under the present government 90.4% of schools are in a good or satisfactory condition according to this year’s school estates statistics.”

Labour’s Andrew McGuire congratulated the SNP for recognising the “benefits of pooled resources and a United Kingdom.”

Councillor Pauline Clark, for the SNP said that the Scottish Government did not have the resources, given the “pocket money” it receives from Westminster.

Councillor Tom Conn dismissed the Scottish Government response to the issue; “ RAAC and ruin. That’s what we are getting from the SNP.”

Councillors backed the composite motion from Councillor Pattle and Councillor Fitzpatrick.

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