Saga over Leighton Middle School improvements finally draws to a close

A long-running saga over improvements to a Leighton Buzzard school appears to have been resolved at last.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 6:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 6:40 pm
The entrance to Leighton Middle School (from Bridge Street)
The entrance to Leighton Middle School (from Bridge Street)

A Central Beds Council meeting was told that the £4.4m project to redevelop parts of Leighton Middle School had come "within budget" after years of development.

This was despite warnings back in 2019 that the project was leading towards a £1.7m overspend after an alleged dispute with a subcontractor.

During open questions at the full council meeting, Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker asked for an update on the school's budget and overspend problems.

"It isn't just about money. It's about wasted school time as well. The impact on education," councillor Baker said.

"The impact of this project on reducing learning time and the impact on the teachers and the school.

"This will give you the chance to address the other issue and apologise to the school."

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Eugene Ghent replied: "I'll read out a written statement I sent to councillor Baker, yesterday.

"As part of our normal contract management arrangements, talks were concluded this week and our Leighton Middle School scheme has come within budget.

"This will be reported to executive in due course through our normal capital reporting process.

"As far as the impact on education, I don't think any children suffered a loss of school hours through this.

"If they were, I certainly haven't been made aware of it. I can't imagine we shut things down because of some building work going on.

"The construction was always planned. Of course things go wrong. But I'm not aware of a severe impact on any child's education."

Councillor Ghent, the executive member for housing and assets, added: "This project has come within the budget set by the council of £4.4m."

He offered to speak to councillor Baker offline and pass his other concerns to CBC's education department."

A topping-out ceremony took place at the school in Church Square in February 2017.

The development is part of a 120-place expansion, enabling it to accommodate 600 pupils.

In August 2019, a report to CBC's executive warned that "costs continue to escalate", and that expenditure was slipping into the 2019/20 financial year.

"The contingency has been spent and continuous budget uplifts are required to cover additional ongoing issues," said the report. "The final costs are still not agreed with the contractor.

"The current forecast total project cost is £5.5m, £1.7m over budget and a pressure on the basic need grant."