Saturday 19 January 2019

Limbo of PPP schools casts doubt on model

The new building at Coláiste Ráithín in Bray, Co Wickow, which pupils are waiting to move in to. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The new building at Coláiste Ráithín in Bray, Co Wickow, which pupils are waiting to move in to. Photo: Steve Humphreys


Only 18 months ago, the construction firm was worth £2bn (€2.29bn). Last week, Carillion was forced to announce that so dire was the state of its finances it would be liquidated, not put into administration.

The decision has sparked one of the largest financial collapses in recent British corporate history.

The impact put the jobs of tens of thousands of workers in jeopardy, resulted in deserted building sites across Britain, and threatened its operations in Canada and the Middle East.

And six schools in this country are also caught in the fallout of the British collapse. These schools, being built under public-private partnerships (PPP), are now in limbo around when they can move into their new buildings.

Two of the schools, Loreto, Co Wexford, and Coláiste Raithín Bray, Co Wicklow, were due to end years of waiting yesterday and move into their state-of-the-art premises.

However, the hand-over dates are now up in the air.

The Dutch partner in the consortium involved in building the schools where work has stopped said a delay in finishing the projects was "inevitable".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday pledged that there would be a solution reached, but said: "It is going to take a couple of weeks to sort this out."

However, the Departments of Education and Finance have done little to assure the management, pupils and parents of the schools concerned that they have a handle on the situation - let alone the taxpayer.

The collapse will also raise questions about the PPP model, where the State is turning to the private sector to build and run facilities that would traditionally be entirely in the hands of the public or voluntary bodies.

Varadkar misses the point on affordability of housing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has doubled down on his view that the so-called 'bank of mum and dad' is an option for homebuyers who are struggling to put a mortgage together.

Varadkar's view sparked outrage yesterday as he was accused of displaying a "posh boy" mentality when he told the Dáil "lots of us" got a parental loan.

The Taoiseach has politely clarified he didn't receive any money from his parents for a mortgage deposit.

"Raising money for a deposit can be really hard, especially if you have other bills like rent or childcare," he said. "So, lots of people get help from their family when raising a deposit for their first home."

Varadkar says this might mean getting a site in a rural area or inheriting "a bit of money from an elderly relative".

"There's nothing wrong with any of it, it's not a mark of privilege. It's what happens every day in middle Ireland," he added. "But I also realise that's not an option for lots of people who are trying to secure a home, and that's why the Government is working so hard on this matter every day."

The primary problem for Varadkar is he will be accused of being out of touch and part of an elite who don't know what it's like to struggle to get a deposit together.

The real problem is he's missing the point that the lack of affordable housing means ordinary couples on modest middle incomes are genuinely hard-pressed to reach the deposit target. The bank of mum and dad has to be tapped as a result - for those lucky enough to have an account.

Irish Independent

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