By Claire West

Fifteen billion pounds will need to be spent in the next four years to guarantee a place for every child in a decent classroom, council leaders revealed.

Analysis carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) shows that fifteen billion capital investment is the absolute minimum councils need between now and 2015 to ensure every child can be taught in a classroom which is safe and structurally sound. Nearly five billion is considered essential for the next financial year, 2011-12.

More than 700 projects from the Building Schools for the Future programme have been halted in the light of public spending pressures and a review has been established to examine future capital investment in education.

In the face of the unprecedented squeeze on public spending, the LGA and ADCS argue that the figures reinforce the need to reform the country’s entire approach to capital spending.

Council leaders are arguing for all public spending on buildings and other capital projects to be pooled in local areas to get the very best value for money and to attract investment from the private sector. That would mean building work to provide new school capacity could be combined with a scheme to provide a new GP surgery, for example, making savings for both health and education.

Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the LGA, said:

“Everyone is well aware of the difficult financial climate in which councils are operating. We need to work even harder to ensure that the money that is invested in school buildings represents the best possible value for the taxpayer.

“Our children need schools which are safe, clean and attractive places in which they can learn. Spending money to maintain or replace existing school buildings is unavoidable. Areas experiencing booming birth rates need to be able to expand primary schools so that every child has a place not too far from their home.

“Education Secretary Michael Gove has stressed his commitment to getting more crucial core funding directly to schools, via councils, but reducing behind the scenes bureaucracy will only go so far.

“Local government is asking for freedoms which will make the country’s money go further. The common sense flexibility we’re requesting will mean councils all over the country can build new schools and improve neighbourhood facilities that residents use every day.”