FIFE COUNCIL wrongly “assumed” they would get money from the Scottish Government for the upfront costs of building replacement high schools for St Columba’s and Woodmill.

A report for today’s education and children’s services committee confirms that they had applied for finance based on the previous model, where Holyrood provided two-thirds of the capital cash.

However, the council’s executive director, Carrie Lindsay, confirmed that a different funding approach means there won’t be any cash for bricks and mortar and they’ll have to borrow from a central pot of cash instead.

That seems to have come as a surprise to officers and they’ll be asked to “explore the potential funding sources” for the joint campus at Halbeath, where it’s planned to build replacements for St Columba’s and Woodmill next to a new Fife College.

Ms Lindsay’s report states that construction costs for the entire campus are estimated as £150 million to £180m, with the new college set to open in 2024, while the schools “could be ready” during the 2024-25 academic year.

The council agreed in February to put £117.6 million of capital funding, over 10 years, into the replacement of St Columba’s, Woodmill and Inverkeithing, as well as two high schools in Glenrothes.

In March, they approached the Scottish Government about funding and a council learning estate strategy was submitted in August, seeking finance for a “distributive model” to replace the three category C schools, St Columba’s, Woodmill and Inverkeithing, and expand Queen Anne and Dunfermline high schools to cope with capacity pressures.

Ms Lindsay added: “The paper indicated that investment included within the council’s capital plan assumed a level of Scottish Government support towards some of the projects and that the funding assumptions made were based on the previous Scottish Government funding model.

“Therefore, a contribution of 67 per cent had been assumed for some of the projects within the £117.6m investment approved in the council capital plan.”

On September 4, the Scottish Government announced that it would fund 100 per cent of the college element of the joint campus, up to £90m, via capital grant and “and up to 50 per cent of the overall cost for the schools element”.

However, instead of money from the New Schools Investment Programme, as expected, she explained: “The schools’ element of the campus would be funded as part of the £1 billion learning estate investment programme through a new revenue funding model.

“Local authorities will be required to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board or use their own capital monies to pay for the upfront cost of constructing a new learning facility.

“As the new Scottish Government funding model is revenue-based, their contribution will pay for ongoing maintenance of the new facility and other outcomes to be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

The next steps for the joint campus are for council officers to look at the funding options, community requirements and opportunities, negotiate to buy the land, develop the brief and appoint a design team. A full public consultation will follow.