Refurbishment of Harris Academy - Some Lingering Concerns

In the Dundee Evening Telegraph on Wednesday 30 September, the Leader the the Administration, Councillor Guild, suggested that he is baffled that I should not heartedly welcome the government announcement of funding support towards the cost of refurbishing Harris Academy. He also has questioned my commitment to Harris Academy.
Harris has a long and distinguished history as a leading school in Dundee and certainly needs and deserves comprehensive upgrading. While I welcome the announcement and wish the development well, I have some lingering well founded reservations about the government announcement and the Council's expression of interest.

I have continuing concerns about the price tag that the council attached to the scheme they forwarded to the government. This feasibility study does not contain any allowance for professional fees for Architects etc. It does not include any provision for contingencies, which may be significant in a set of buildings that dates back to the 1930s. I have continuing concerns about the Goverment's silence about their percentage contribution to the project. If this was favourable I think they would have mentioned it in their press release. If the government's proportion of funding is lower and if the Council's costings are unrealistically low either the Administration's ambitions for the rehabilitation of Harris Academy might be trimmed and/or more money will need to be raided from another budget. I think that parents and carers in the West End, Whitfield and Lochee-Charleston who are waiting for their planned new Primary schools will notice that Councillor Guild only protected the new Council Offices and city Centre Swimming Pool, when the capital plan for big projects is reviewed in February. Does this mean that the new five new Primary Schools and three nurseries, the Labour led Administration brought forward for West End, Whitfield and Lochee-Charleston, might be delayed or deleted?

During my period as Education Convener, the Harris Academy feasibility study was instructed and undertaken. The study was concluded and dated March 2009 which precedes the SNP taking the Administration in early April 2009. Harris Academy would have been tackled earlier had the search for an alternative site for a new build replacement been successful. The feasibility study recognised that the search for another site within the Harris Academy catchment area should be abandoned and onsite alternative approaches should be explored and adopted. Following the announcement from the Scottish Government, on Wednesday 17 June, of a school building programme supported by £800 million of Scottish Government funding to be shared by all 32 local authorities in Scotland, I have consistently asked the new Education Convener, Councillor Liz Fordyce, to endorse Harris Academy as her first next priority for investment for school building in the city. She declined to do this until last week and did not feel able to confirm that an expression of interest had been forwarded to the government. I raised this in both at an Education Committee before the summer recess and in a press release that was reported. It was also published on my website in June 2009.
Harris Academy Should be Number One School Building Priority in Dundee
"Will SNP Education Convener Liz Fordyce now confirm that Harris Academy will be her number one priority on the Council's shopping list?"

I hope the public, if not Councillor Guild, will appreciate that, I am campaigning for a really comprehensive refurbishment of Harris Academy, because the pupils and teachers deserve 21st century facilities that are on a par with those that are evident in the Academies and High Schools that have already been rebuilt or refurbished in Dundee."