Published: 11:25, 24 November 2010
by political editor Paul Francis
Building work on a flagship school academy may not get under way until next February, say county education chiefs.
Plans for the new £52m Sheppey Academy have been blighted by a series of delays, and contracts for the construction of the new school have yet to be signed.
Now Kent County Council has revealed it has yet to get the government’s confirmation that the level of funding previously agreed will still be available.
The issue of the delay was raised by Sheppey county councillor Ken Pugh (Con) at a meeting of an education scrutiny committee.
He said: "When are the JCBs going to start digging? When will KCC sign off the documents? It is several months since the government said that money was reserved. But there are no documents signed and no contractors have come on site. What is happening?"
In response, Cllr Gary Cooke, deputy cabinet member for education, said contracts could not be signed until KCC was certain the money was available.
"It is not 100 per cent certain as to the funding. We cannot sign a contract until we are absolutely certain that the money will be reimbursed by the government. That would not be in the best interests of taxpayers."
He added: "We are very anxious to sign the documents and proceed with Sheppey as quickly as we can. There is no delay on our part."
Graham Ward, KCC’s capital programme director, said there was still uncertainty about whether the budeget for Sheppey may have to be reduced as part of a 40 per cent cut in the budget of Partnership for Schools, the organisation overseeing the building scheme.
"We are not anticipating there will be a reduction but have not had final confirmation."
The Sheppey Academy opened on two sites in September; the former Minster College and the former Cheyne Middle School at Jefferson Road, Sheerness.
Under the plans, both sites will be redeveloped.
For more news from Sheppey, see this week's Sheerness Times Guardian.
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