More pressure has been piled on Aberdeen’s council leadership days before they could halt the construction of a new school for months on end.
Campaigners looking to ensure work on the £36.2m Tillydrone School continues were handed a weeks-long reprieve earlier this month.
That was after the downing of tools had already been approved by the SNP and Liberal Democrat administration.
New Tillydrone school pause a result of spiralling council construction bills
Council bookkeepers suggested the pause as they try to get to grips with overspending on major council building projects.
Resources director Steve Whyte suggested the “prudent” delay would allow retendering of the construction contract to haggle a better price.
If plans are approved, the local authority will also soon halt building new homes at Craighill, Kincorth, Tillydrone and Kaimhill.
Plans for a new nursery attached to St Joseph’s RC Primary would be scrapped too.
Education bosses see “no identified need” for it.
But now Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has accused the ruling partnership of “hacking away the legs” of Aberdeen communities.
He and his shadow education secretary Michael Marra met campaigners from the Riverbank Parent Council yesterday.
Overlooking the bare concrete foundations, now deserted by construction crews, the senior MSPs called for those running the council to “right the wrongs of the past”.
Campaign for new school was a hard-fought and a decade long
In 2008, Riverbank School was created in a merger of St Machar and Donbank.
The SNP and Lib Dems in joint control of the local authority – then and now – faced protest at the time.
Parents claimed the building was overcrowded as the rolls were merged.
Under Labour leadership, the council began building the school during the pandemic.
But only the foundations have been laid, with the SNP claiming a contract for the rest of the building work was never signed.
The hold-up has a knock-on effect on nearby St Peter’s RC Primary too, whose pupils will move to the existing Riverbank School after it is upgraded.
Decisions to halt building new school and housing ‘penny-wise but pound-poor,’ Tillydrone councillor claims
Tillydrone Labour councillor Ross Grant said: “The SNP and Liberal Democrats need to do right by this community they sold short 14 years ago and move ahead with construction immediately.
“It isn’t just one school but two impacted by this delay.
“Children in St Peter’s continue to work in a substandard building.
“We cannot be penny-wise but pound-poor here, prices are looking to continue to rise for the next year.
“Prices need to be locked in now because material costs are rising by the week.”
His party leader urged investment in the community, warning this would be the “thin edge of the wedge of council cuts”.
Mr Sarwar added: “The SNP/Liberal Democrat administration needs to take the fight for funding right to the Scottish Government.
“Councillors need to stand up for the people of this city.
“They have seen year-on-year cuts above and beyond anything experienced in Holyrood.”
Council chiefs “firmly committed” to new Tillydrone school
But the SNP and Lib Dems reiterated their “firm commitment” to constructing the new school.
“That’s something which Labour promised. But they never even signed a contract to complete the build,” said SNP finance convener Alex McLellan.
“You do have to laugh that Anas Sarwar was up in Aberdeen standing side-by-side with the Labour councillors.
“They were suspended for working hand in glove with the Tories, and their coalition only came to an end back in May.
“The price for the new Tillydrone Primary has come in substantially higher than what we would have expected.
“We are going back out to the market to ensure best value of the public pound.
“Given Labour’s record of overspending, it’s not surprising they are not interested in best value.”