You will have seen this week that the council has been faced with a difficult decision in agreeing to sell some land at Elliott School in Putney to pay for its-much needed refurbishment.
The school desperately needs this money. The current school facilities are not fit for purpose. Classrooms are dilapidated - too cold in winter, too hot in summer. Children and their parents deserve a learning environment that is fit for the 21st Century. The council has invested millions of pounds in repairs and maintenance over the years but this has simply not kept pace with the deterioration of the 1950s building. We need a different solution.
We were faced with three options:
Option 1: Continue to place a sticking plaster over the work that the school needs, leading to further deterioration and possible closure.
Option 2: Borrow the £25 million that we need to pay for the work, storing up problems at a time when we already have to make around £24 million of savings a year over the next two years. This option would require a borough-wide referendum so that we can increase council tax beyond the 3.49% threshold set by the government to afford the annual debt repayment charges.
Option 3: Sell some of what is a large parcel of land, much of which is not used properly (around two thirds is concreted over and used as a car park and for redundant buildings) to pay for the majority of the costs. The council will still be paying over £5million towards the £30+ million cost of renovation, but this is affordable.
Much has been said about the fact that we are apparently selling playing fields. Yes, green space is part of this land but I do not believe that these are 'playing fields' as people would normally understand them. The green land is on a slope and cannot be used for organised sport. The money from the sale of the land would provide for a new sports hall and improved hard-court sports areas to the extent where competitive sport could be played for the first time. The fact is this refurbishment will improve sports facilities at Elliott.
Most importantly option 3 is supported by the Government, by the headteacher and by the majority of parents and pupils.
I am absolutely convinced that the decision taken is in the best interests of the school, in the best interest of current and future generations of pupils and in the best interest of council tax payers across Wandsworth.
Cllr Ravi Govindia
August 23, 2012