MORAY COUNCIL IS on a collision course with the Scottish Government over a funding shortfall for the new Elgin High School.
Councillors were informed on Wednesday that the bill for building the school had risen by £1million since the project was delayed by a dispute between the Scottish Government and the Office for National Statistics over the funding model used for the Scottish Futures Trust.
That brought a halt to the planned start date for the £28million project – and while ministers have now given the go-ahead, the cost of building the school has increased to £29million.
While the Scottish Government has recognised the shortfall is no fault of Moray Council, they are offering just half of the increase – leaving the local authority to pick up the remainder.
Council Leader Stewart Cree insists that as it was prevarication by the Scottish Government that caused the increase, they should cover the full £1million. He said: “The government’s prevarication has resulted in us facing the additional costs.
“It is not our fault the work has been delayed and we should not have to pay the price for that, our capital budget is under extreme pressure from commitments to other schools, so the £500,000 [shortfall] would have to come from those.
“That could mean improvement planned for those buildings would be forced back – if we do not get the money we will suffer and Moray will suffer.”
Council officials say that they have “robustly challenged” the Scottish Government offer to provide just half the costs of the increase, adding that they still hope to “squeeze some more money out of them”.
Discussions will also be held with the contractor appointed to carry out the work on the new school amid concerns over why there was such a large increase in building costs, with the council convener, Allan Wright, saying: “There seems to have been this automatic escalation of costs month by month – I would like to see a proper justification for that.”
Talks over funding will continue with the Scottish Government with the financial aspects expected to be concluded by February and building of the new school commencing in April.