School crisis company given £60k contract '˜to inspect walls'

One of the companies involved in Edinburgh schools crisis has been handed a £60,000 contract '“ to inspect the city's walls.

Temporary classrooms are moved into place at the Royal High School in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Amey, a founding member of the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), has been appointed by the city council “to undertake retaining wall investigations throughout the city” over a three-month period.

The move comes as thousands of pupils returned to education today following the closure of 17 schools in the capital last Monday amid concerns over the construction of their walls.

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Critics said they are “staggered” by the council’s decision to hand the lucrative deal to Amey, and say it risks undermining public confidence in how local politicians are handling the ongoing crisis.

Amey’s new contract, awarded last month, sees it tasked with undertaking a city-wide survey of “all retaining walls” which either support public roads or footways.

Edinburgh Greens finance spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I am staggered at the complacency of the finance committee in agreeing to give a contract to a private company which is part of the unfolding problem of school repairs in the capital. At the very least a pause in the decision would have been wise.”

The news emerged as officials said alternative arrangements were now in place for all 7,600 pupils affected by the closures.

Children have been relocated to 61 different sites across the city, while 16 temporary classrooms have been installed at the city’s Royal High school.

All 17 of the affected schools were built or refurbished following a £360 million public private partnership (PPP1) agreement in 2001. The deal created a PFI consortium called ESP, which included Amey, Miller Construction and the Bank of Scotland.

Amey said its ongoing facilities management contract at the schools did not include wall inspections, and that it had now sold its shares in ESP.

Gordon Allan, Amey’s business director for consulting, said: “We will catalogue the location and condition of retaining walls throughout Edinburgh so the council’s maintenance team can develop a formal inspection and proactive maintenance schedule.”

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, leader of the city’s finance committee, said: “The decision to appoint the contract was taken following a competitive bidding process.”