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Tories accuse Welsh Government of passing the buck over schools concrete scandal

04 Sep 2023 5 minute read
School children during class at a primary school. Photo Danny Lawson PA Images

Emily Price

The Welsh Conservatives have accused the Welsh Government of passing the blame over the discovery of dangerous concrete in two Anglesey schools.

The afternoon, the education minister, Jeremy Miles announced that Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) had been found in Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi.

As a result, the schools will not open for their first day of term tomorrow pending further safety investigations.

The material was used in construction in many buildings between the 1960s and 1990s but safety experts have warned it is now beyond its lifespan and could collapse without notice.

In a statement the education minister today said that the Welsh Government had “repeatedly requested” details from the UK Government regarding RAAC risks and management but those details were withheld until around 7pm yesterday evening – less than a day before the new school term.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Laura Anne Jones MS hit out at the statement and accused the Welsh Government of taking their eye off the ball.

She said: “Students and parents don’t want a statement saying, ‘he said, she said’ and trying to pass the blame to someone else. They want a Welsh Government which is going to take action to solve this problem and reassure communities that their schools are safe.

“The fact is that the Welsh Government have taken their eye off the ball on this, relying on councils to do the work that the UK Government was leading on in England.

“Whilst it’s welcome that they’ve named the two schools that have RAAC, it’s not reassuring for schools across Wales who are now having to urgently undertake these surveys because the Labour Government sat on their hands for a year.”

Incidents

RAAC has recently been confirmed in a range of public sector properties across the UK including in over 100 schools in England.

UK Government Ministers have stated that a number of incidents happened over the summer period which led to there being a heightened safety risk.

However, the Welsh Government said that at no point was this new evidence flagged to them.

Surveys will take place by local authorities across Wales in the coming weeks to verify the extent of the issue.

Former president of the Institution of Structural Engineers, Dr John Roberts told the BBC the concrete should never have been used in any permanent buildings

He said: “I didn’t think it was ever a material that I would be happy to use as a structural material spanning across openings. It doesn’t resemble ordinary concrete in the slightest.

“I don’t recall it being marketed as a short-life material. I think that is something that has been determined afterwards.

“I believe it was missold. I don’t believe it should have been sold as effectively a pre-cast manufactured concrete product. It was inherently, in my view, a risky material to be using.”

He said that in the 70s and 80s, the material was not being designed by consulting structural engineers, but being promoted by manufacturers in catalogues without much information.

Dr Roberts said it is “extremely difficult” to identify the crumbling concrete that is leading to the closure of schools.

“I think you need to have quite an amount of structural engineering knowledge to identify this material,” he told the World At One.

“It’s not normally directly visible.”

Asked whether there needs to be a wider audit of public buildings, he said: “I can’t see why they are unlikely to be limited just to schools. They’re quite likely to be in a whole range of other public and perhaps private commercial buildings.

“But typically they provide the structure for a flat roof, so that would be the place that you would start looking for it if you wanted to be sure.”

Asked whether manufacturers of the material should be held to account, he said they have all gone out of business and no longer exist.

“Wake-up call”

Plaid Cymru’s Rhys ab Owen has previously warned against the potentially unsafe concrete in schools and is now calling for a comprehensive and urgent audit of all public sector buildings.

The MS for South Wales Central said: “The announcement by Ynys Mon council that two schools in Wales won’t open this week because of safety concerns about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) is a wake-up call for the Welsh Government.

“The council is quite right to put the safety of pupils and staff first.I am calling on the Welsh Government for a comprehensive and urgent audit of all public sector buildings for this type of concrete, not just our schools but our hospitals too.

“Cash strapped councils need support from the Welsh Government to carry out safety checks on their buildings.

“I warned about the issue of potentially unsafe concrete in schools in our capital, because according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Cardiff Civic Society last month, Cardiff Council did not know how many of schools in the capital may contain Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

“This concrete was deemed so dangerous in St David’s Hall; it was used by the Labour run Cardiff Council to justify its transfer of the concert hall to the private sector to AGM/Live Nation.

“As the Labour party Deputy Leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner has said: ‘If public safety is at risk, we need to know urgently.’ – the same standard should apply to Labour Ministers in Wales as those responsible for public buildings over the border.”


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Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
7 months ago

When the tories are under pressure over the border in westminster which is nearly every other day with the mistakes they make their counterparts in Wales or those tories in england use Wales as a political football over everything and anything

Richard
Richard
7 months ago

Is great to see the Tories behind education in Wales yet again.✔️

They can always be relied upon to add in support and good will for our pupils.✔️

Wait a month minute🤔 though !

Who was running education when these buildings were put up ⬆️ ?????

Opps 🤥

Let’s look 👀 at something else

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
7 months ago

Really? The Welsh Government didn’t exist when those schools were built!

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
7 months ago

Perhaps the Welsh government is at fault here but the Welsh Conservatives should keep their hypocritical mouths shut – their masters in London are far from blameless too.

Rhobert Davi8s
Rhobert Davi8s
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

How dare the Tories speak.. What do they think Wales is? A democracy?

Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago
Reply to  Rhobert Davi8s

If the Tories offered some constructive criticism and offered some helpful solutions to problems in Cymru, I suspect they would be given more respect when they talk. Alas, they never do, resulting in derision of any statement’s made.

Rhobert Davi8s
Rhobert Davi8s
7 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

There are 14 Tory MP’s in Wales because people voted for them. The people who voted for them gave them a great deal of respect and agreed with them when they spoke. Alas some people see things in black and white and do not understand the full picture in all its glorious colours. I did not vote for them but respect their right to a point of view even if I do not agree with them.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago

Ok, give me the numbers. Two RAAC schools in Wales is obviously much worse than over one hundred so far on the Tories’ patch. It’s quite a complement really. Higher standards are expected of Cymru whereas under the ‘everything collapses including the government’ party, 100 schools is par for the course. No fuss!

Ieuan Evans
Ieuan Evans
7 months ago

The Tories diverting blame onto others? Never known that happen before. Or have I? I’m led to believe that its their MO.

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