Clause 14 - Accessibility Strategies and Plans

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 29th March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 3:30 pm, 29th March 2001

I want to respond to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Daventry. I must say that there is probably a consensus in the Committee on the issue that he has raised. However, I am uncertain whether establishing that principle through the amendment as worded would help to improve access to schools.

I shall further elucidate the point that I made during my intervention on the hon. Gentleman. For many years, I have been concerned about the way in which LEAs tender for capital works in schools. From my experience working in the charitable sector, I know that it is possible to build small village halls or playgroup centres for £40,000 to £45,000, which includes bringing services on to a greenfield site. New single classrooms that are bolted on to existing sites cost a minimum of £100,000 to £110,000. I must therefore question whether we have a system that can obtain adequate value for money. I have deep concerns about the way in which local government operates given my experience of both sides of the equation in the charitable sector and local government,

I would be worried if LEAs—there are good LEAs and not so good LEAs—were given the task of establishing plans to calculate the cost of improving accessibility to schools in the local authority area. If that were the case, we could end up with frightening and unrealistic figures that would put LEAs off, and would lead to doubts about whether it would be right and appropriate to go ahead with the policy. Indeed, the timetables that we hope LEAs will meet would be called into question, and LEAs could appeal to the Government to phase the accessibility requirements that we want schools to establish over a longer period.

For those reasons, I have misgivings about the practicalities of inserting the amendment. I agree that a cautious approach and an understanding of the ball park figures in local authority areas is the correct way forward, but it would be wrong to include the amendment.