The last three budgets have inflicted “massive reductions” on the school building programme, a fall of 22 per cent, and yet the number of schools needing work remains the same as ever.
This is the view of Labour Party president Michael D Higgins, who said the budget for the School Building Programme has been cut by €145 million since 2008.
At the start of 2009, the Government promised to spend €652 million on primary and secondary school buildings. Last week’s Budget saw this fall to just €507 million.
The Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe has claimed he will spend €579 million on new schools in 2010. However Dep Higgins said this figure includes the €72 million “he failed to spend in 2009” so “this is simply a cutback in disguise”.
The Galway West TD said it is “inexcusable” that the Minister “failed to spend” the €72 million, especially when there are more than 1,100 applications from schools for major capital works and many children “stuck in prefabs and run-down classrooms”.
He said: “There is clearly a need for new school buildings. Spending the entire school building budget would provide much needed employment to construction workers who are stuck on the dole queues. If the Government wanted to tackle the jobs crisis, prioritising school buildings should have been at the top of their list.”