SUNDERLAND’S roads and schools are in line to benefit from this week’s Spending Review.
Plans to refurbish or rebuild some of city’s biggest schools could be completed two years earlier than expected.
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told the Commons yesterday that work on the schools, including Hetton, Hylton Castle Primary, Shiney Row Primary and St Anthony’s Catholic Girls’ Academy and Seaham will be finished early, thanks to the money the Government was committing to the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP).
Mr Alexander said: “With the money I’ve committed today, we’ll complete this by 2017 – two years early.
“But there are many other schools in need of repair and investment. We’ll put £10billion behind this, enough to clear the urgent backlog.”
Concerns have been raised recently about delays to the programme, which was set up after ministers scrapped Labour’s £55billion Building Schools for the Future scheme in 2010.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has been meeting with minsters in a bid to push the Government into releasing the cash so that work on Hetton School, currently in a poor state, can begin at the earliest possible date.
Ms Phillipson today said: “Labour has been telling the Government for some time now that its delivery on promised infrastructure spending plans have been slow. Today’s announcement by the Chief Secretary recognises this.
“Three years after the Government’s first infrastructure plan was launched, few have been completed and just one school has been built.
“If the Government had not cancelled Labour’s effective Building Schools for the Future programme, then schools like Hetton would have been well on their way to completion – rather than waiting to be started.
“I will continue to put pressure on the Government to deliver on its promises.
“Infrastructure projects such as school rebuilding are vital to getting our economy moving and providing much-needed construction jobs.”
But Robert Oliver, leader of Sunderland Tories, said the move was a positive step, building on the two waves of cash the city received from Building Schools for the Future prior to its ending. He said: “This will benefit the schools by creating a good environment in which pupils can learn. There is no doubt that improving school buildings does have a positive impact on pupils.
Mr Alexander also announced a major overhaul of the roads network, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to plans for a flyover at Testo’s roundabout on the A19.
The Highways Agency are proposing to improve the A19 by constructing the flyover. Entry and exit slip roads will connect the A19 to a new roundabout, requiring a slightly larger roundabout than is currently in place.
Mr Alexander said the road network has been “decaying for decades” as he announced the biggest investment programme in more than 40 years.
Councillor Oliver said the plans were welcome as they would improve the links for businesses like Nissan and those situated on the A19 corridor.
He said: “We do need the infrastructure but we do need to ensure that it links in with the needs of the city.
“It’s important we build on the links between the automotive sectors in the city.
“All in all, both of these announcements are very positive for the city and will help create jobs and attract business.”
Mr Alexander added: “We are committing £10billion of investment in road repairs between 2015/16 and 2020/21.
“More than £4billion of that money will be spent on national road maintenance, enough to resurface over 21,000 miles of road – the equivalent of London to Beijing and back.”