PRESSURE will be put on the minister for Portsmouth to secure £2m needed to rebuild a school as demand for student places grows.
Councillors have agreed that Conservative leader Donna Jones must lobby Mark Francois to get extra financial support for King Richard School in Paulsgrove.
I recognise the government has got to reign back the council grant spend. However, what I cannot live with is a poor funding decision, which is the school re-building programme for this school.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
It comes after the council was told by the government it needed to cough up £2m towards the reconstruction of the ageing building if it wanted it to retain its current capacity – 1,080 school places.
But Cllr Jones said proposals are being worked on in the meantime to sell off part of the school’s playing fields to provide up to 1,000 places, compared to 900 the government is only willing to pay for.
She said selling a corner of the site would help cover extra costs – at a time when there are concerns over a shortage in school places across Portsmouth.
The school would get some money from the deal.
But Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, raised concerns.
Speaking at yesterday’s full council debate, he said: ‘There is a proposal to take some of the land at King Richard – yet there is a feeling about why should we give up green space when it is central government’s responsibility to provide enough money for secondary school places?
‘There was £1.45m which the government insisted we paid in order to clean The Camber for Ben Ainslie Racing, yet it won’t provide us money we need to provide school places.’
Former education secretary Michael Gove was criticised as King Richard was initially going to get help under the government’s last school building programme – but ended up missing out.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I am obviously disappointed we haven’t got the money to rebuild the school to a greater capacity. I recognise the government has got to rein back the council grant spend.
‘However, what I cannot live with is a poor funding decision, which is the school rebuilding programme for this school.’
But Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt wrote to councillors ahead of the meeting insisting the council ‘does have the money available’ to pay for a bigger school or improved facilities.
Lib Dem Matthew Winnington said: ‘As a council, we cannot afford to keep bailing out the government, which is on a crusade against giving councils money.’
Paulsgrove Tory councillor Gemma New added: ‘The 900-place school is welcome, but, we would be silly not to build a 1,000-place school, if we can find the money.’