Clause 14 - Accessibility Strategies and Plans

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:45 pm, 29th March 2001

I agree, Mr. O'Brien.

The point I am trying to make is that budgets in the private sector are limited, but much has been achieved under the 1995 Act. However, I am concerned about the LEA system and I have some experience of it. As the hon. Member for St. Ives said, when it is known that a contract emanates from an LEA, tenders do not always reflect the true market value. We all know what happens with public sector tenders, and there is often less flexibility.

Schools and LEAs may consider different ways of implementing provisions, and some schools, bearing in mind the pressure they are under, may try to say that it is for the LEA to fund the work while the LEA may say that it is for the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry made a valid point. There is consensus, and we do not want to impede the provisions, but we must have some idea of how they will be implemented.

There will also be local differences, and some areas will have many schools that are difficult to adapt. In the London borough of Hillingdon, some further education sites and listed buildings are being closed--although the provision will be continued--and sold to the private sector because the cost of converting them for accessibility is too high for the local authority. Local authorities must make difficult decisions.

The hon. Member for High Peak referred to lifts, which must be considered but which include a maintenance cost. Again, I know from experience of an old shop that the cost of installing and maintaining a lift is substantial and companies must budget for it. I do have concerns, and the problem must be considered. It is easy to say what we want when in Opposition, but it is up to the Government to fund it. We are suggesting an audit, so to speak, of what would be needed, so that the costs would be recognisable. I must point out a problem to my hon. Friend, however. I do not know what approach one would use in examining the costs. It would depend; tenders might be expected. We want to flag up our concern about the possibility of greater overall costs—or just to find out the implications of what is proposed.