Welsh Secretary David TC Davies challenges Welsh Government over RAAC
Welsh Secretary David Davies has challenged the Welsh Government’s narrative about its response to concerns about the potentially dangerous building material RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete).
The Monmouth MP cited a letter he has received from Labour councillor Martyn Groucutt, Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for education.
Cllr Groucutt’s letter responded to a question from Mr Davies about when the council had been asked by the Welsh Government specifically to check schools for the presence of RAAC.
The councillor stated: “As I am sure you appreciate, we have been working with our internal resources to determine the exact position before advising you of this. As we have seen, this can be a fast-moving area of work, and we want to be sure we share accurate information with the public.
“Monmouthshire County Council has been working with the Welsh Government to understand the risk of RAAC in school and other local authority buildings. Initial reviews have been undertaken by specialist engineers, and if further investigations are required, this will be undertaken.
“At this time, no RAAC has been discovered and we will continue to be guided by the experts in this field. The safety of all students, teachers and staff is our main priority and we will continue to work with the Welsh Government.”
Crucially, according to Mr Davies, Cllr Groucutt added: “With regards to specific requests from the Welsh Government to inspect the school estate with the sole purpose of identifying RAAC, we have not received a specific request prior to the most recent period of activity.
“However, all of Monmouthshire’s schools are currently being surveyed as part of the ongoing review of condition and suitability. I assure you I will continue to update you on this important matter.”
Mr Davies said: “What Monmouthshire County Council – a Labour controlled authority – has told me is that a request to check school buildings specifically for RAAC did not come from the Welsh Government until what is described as ‘the most recent period of activity’, which I interpret as being last week.
“It seems that previously, general surveys were being carried out into the condition of school buildings and their energy use, and that any RAAC present would be identified incidentally. That is very different from organising a survey specifically to check for RAAC.”
Mr Davies added: “In England, the Labour Party has been trying to politicise the RAAC issue, accusing the UK Government of being negligent and putting people’s lives at risk needlessly. I think that’s unreasonable – and it’s clear that more targeted surveys could have been undertaken in Wales.
“I don’t think any political party should be making political capital out of this situation. It’s important that everyone works together to make sure school buildings are as safe as they can be,”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman drew our attention to sections of a written statement made by Education Minister Jeremy Miles on September 4.
Mr Miles stated: “UK Governments have been aware of some of the vulnerabilities of RAAC since the 1990s and the Welsh Government has been working with the UK Government and other devolved governments since 2018 in the management of RAAC. Until very recently the guidance for the management of RAAC in buildings has been considered by all governments as being a robust approach towards managing RAAC and in ensuring building occupants’ safety is prioritised at all times.
“… Local authorities have a statutory duty to assess condition and safety risks including structural integrity for all buildings within their school estate and to maintain records.
“Details of any instance or awareness of RAAC is being requested as part of the annual education data collection exercise and, since March this year, we have been working closely with local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association. A number of local authorities have completed their school estate review and it is underway in others.
“ In May, we commissioned a condition and energy survey of all state funded schools and colleges. The nature of the survey would highlight any structures suspected of containing RAAC for further inspection by specialist structural engineers.”
In the same written statement, Mr Miles confirmed that two schools in Ynys Môn had been identified as having been built with RAAC.
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