Blunkett: let schools take out bank loans

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The Independent Online
DAVID Blunkett, the Labour education spokesman, will today outline plans to forge a partnership with private finance to tackle the estimated pounds 3.2bn school building backlog.

The proposals, which will be unveiled at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Cardiff, have been formulated after discussions with Hambros Bank and ahead of further consultations with the British Bankers Association.

Under Labour's scheme, local education authorities would help schools to band together in groups to agree planned programmes of maintenance work. These consortia of schools would be able to borrow using as security "non core" assets, such as spare buildings or land, owned by any of the member schools.

Mr Blunkett hopes banks, which have indicated a preference for dealing with groups of schools, will offer favourable interest rates. Labour believes its proposals will, in the long term, save money by tackling repairs at an earlier and cheaper stage. It also thinks better building standards will save on energy costs.

Left-wing demonstrators wearing slogan-bearing T-shirts stood with their backs to Gillian Shephard as the Education Secretary began her speech at the NUT conference yesterday. They displayed letters which formed a giant "No to selection" banner.

Mrs Shephard, the first education secretary to address an NUT conference for 16 years, had to enter the conference centre through a back door as demonstrators crowded round the front entrance. She was heard mainly in silence though there were some jeers particularly when she listed the Government's achievements since 1979.

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