TAXPAYERS in Renfrewshire have been left with a £160 million bill after a blunder by the SNP council left a school a third of the size it was meant to be. 

To fix the problem, councillors have agreed “prudential borrowing” to be paid back at £4m a year for the next four decades. 

That means costs will balloon to roughly the same amount as the UK and Scottish governments spent on the funeral and lying-in-state of the late Queen. 

It’s the latest development in the growing Dargavel Primary scandal.

Yesterday, First Minister Humza Yousaf was asked to help the council with the costs, but he warned that would mean needing to take money from other schools. 

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We revealed in November that the brand new £18m school building should have been able to accommodate 1,100 pupils, but due to an “error” by officials, it can only hold 430.

The authority announced in February that they now expect 1,500 children to need to use the school by 2033. As a result, they now need a new building with capacity for around 800 pupils. 

Last week, in a paper sent to councillors, education chiefs at the cash-strapped authority admitted that the cost of fixing the problem would be far more than previously thought. 

The cost of the new building will be somewhere between £42m and £45m while extending the local secondary, Park Mains High School, to accommodate another 400 pupils will be between £27m and £30m. 

The local authority said they would likely need to take a loan out to pay for the cost. They estimated that this would leave the council with annual repayments of £4m.

During yesterday’s meeting of the council’s Education and Children's Services Policy Board, Labour councillor Gillian Graham asked how long the borrowing would last. 

Alastair MacArthur, the Director of Finance and Resources at the council told the meeting that the repayments would normally be spread out over the estimated life of the building. 

“Generally, whenever we're looking at new build on the scale of a complete new school, we would look at costs over the full estimated life of that particular facility, which would normally be around about 40 years. 

“For an extension to an existing building, that would be something less than that, perhaps between 25 to 30 years. So the £4m is my estimate at this point in time based on those average lives for those new facilities. 

“And the borrowing costs would be written off over the estimated life of those facilities. So it's within that time period.”

There are fears that simply extending the existing secondary will not be enough. Asked how much it would cost to build a brand new facility, officers told the councillors it would be around another £70m-£75m.

Dargavel Primary is part of the privately funded Dargavel Village project, a multimillion-pound development to build 4,000 new homes on the site of a former Royal Ordnance Factory by 2034.

As part of the agreement with the council, BAE systems paid for the new school.

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But because they have built it to the specifications supplied to them by the council their obligations under what is known as the Section 75 agreement, are now discharged, leaving the authority to pick up the cost for the new primary at least.

However, Stephen Quinn, the council’s Director of Children's Services, told the meeting that there was a clause in the Section 75, that the developer will pay the cost for “up to 200 pupils” at the secondary school.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Graham said: “Let’s be clear this decision by the SNP administration will now cost Renfrewshire tax payers £160million over the next 40 years”.

During the meeting, Iain Nicolson, the SNP council leader hit out at the Labour politician. 

“I won't take any lectures from Labour about the financial burdens,” he said. “I think you should go and look at PFI and ask how much every single year we pay private companies for these schools that you put into debt and put on the credit card. 

“So don't give us any lectures today about financial aspects of delivering school estates because your record doesn't stand up to scrutiny on that front.” 

Neil Bibby, the Labour MSP for West Scotland, raised the plight of the school during First Minister’s Questions and called on the Scottish Government to help the council foot the bill. 

“Renfrewshire's Education Policy Board meets today to discuss school provision for children in Dargavel, following the council's catastrophic school miscalculation,” he said. 

“The last time I raised the expected cost to fix the mess was £28 million. It is now an incredible £75 million. 

“Parents are looking for the Scottish Government to help resolve this situation. 

“Does the First Minister agree that no child in Renfrewshire should have to pay for the council's incompetence and lose out because of the resulting shortfall in school budgets?

“And if so, what will the Scottish Government do to ensure there's accountability for this failure and that the appropriate primary and secondary provision is in place as a matter of urgency?“

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Mr Yousaf said education secretary Jenny Gilruth would have discussions with Renfrewshire Council, but that, ultimately, these were “local authority matters.” 

“What Neil Bibby is asking me to do is take money out of the current school building programme and redistribute that to another project," he said.

“Now he would have to say what school we would take that away from because every single penny is accounted for in terms of the current budget. 

“So yes, we will continue to have discussions with Renfrewshire Council as we have done already, but I will ask the education secretary to re-touch base with Renfrewshire Council because ultimately, I agree with Neil Bibby's premise that no child should feel that their education or their educational attainment suffers as a result of any decision that's made, be that by national government or indeed by local government.”