herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

School prefabs rent bill tops €24m a year

RENTED school prefabs are costing the Government a staggering €24m a year.

In addition, the department has forked out €6.6m to pay for 92 prefabs for schools in the first nine months of this year.

In Dublin alone, the rental bill is €5.6m for 268 prefabs in primary schools and 21 in post primary premises.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan has now employed a team of specialists to "develop new procedures and systems" for temporary accommodation "with a view to achieving best value for money".

The minister says the review is well underway and includes drawing up new contractual terms to give the schools the option to buy out or relocate the prefabs.

In all, the department is renting 1,694 prefabs for primary schools and 101 for post primary schools at a cost of €24.2m this year.

The costs are down €1m on last year when €25.2m was spent on renting 1,780 primary and 99 post primary units.

Dublin has the highest number of rentals paying €5.5m for 289 units, followed by Cork where the cost is €3.1m for 236 units and Meath where just under €2m is being paid for 125 units. Roscommon has the lowest costs at €123,580 for just 14 prefabs and in Leitrim the bill is €141,360 this year for 10 prefabs -- all in primary schools.

This year, the department has also spent €6.6m between January and September buying out 92 units for schools around the country.

Once again, Dublin had the highest bill where €1.7m was paid for 22 units with just under €950,000 spent in Cork on 13 units, €682,000 on six units in Galway and €624,000 on 10 units in Meath.

In reply to a question from Deputy Bernard Durkan, the minister said in the context of a rapidly increasing school population and competing pressure on the capital budget available "it is necessary to make use of temporary accommodation in order to meet the accommodation needs of schools".

She said the temporary accommodation was suitable for use as classrooms.

It was important, when additional teaching posts were sanctioned by her department, that schools were able to appoint and accommodate the teachers as soon as possible.

In addition, there had been a change in policy in her department to provide grants to buy rather than rent premises where the need for such accommodation is likely to exist for more than three years.

csheehy@herald.ie

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