NORTH Ayrshire’s council leader has been unsuccessful so far in renegotiating PPP payments which cost taxpayers £1million every month.

This is in regards to the deal for the construction and maintenance of Greenwood Academy, St Matthew’s Academy, Arran High School and Stanley Primary.

At last week’s Full Council meeting, Labour leader Joe Cullinane was asked for an update on what he has done to get the Scottish Government to help buy out the controversial private finance deal contracts, who has he met with and who has he sought finance from.

Independent Saltcoats Cllr Ronnie McNicol added: “The company PPP Services North Ayrshire Limited was set up by the then Labour administration to provide design, construction, finance and facilities management services for four schools.

“The total unitary charge payments from 2007/8 to 2016/17 are £107,068,624. The estimated total payments for 2017/18 was £12,607,315 and the estimated future payments until 2037/38 are £275,587,000 – a total payment over the 38-year period of £395,272,939."

He added that if the council had built the four schools it would have cost £83million.

Cllr Cullinane said: “I have written several times to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mackay MSP regarding the buyout of PPP contracts, many of those as part of our communication on budget settlements.

“Following the council’s decision to explore options to buy out the PPP contracts I wrote to Mr MacKay specifically about the matter. I emphasised the need for a joint approach to buy out the contracts – not least because the Scottish Government would have to give a financial commitment to continue providing additional revenue grants to the council to support the cost. The government would also have to approve any buyout.

“Unfortunately the Cabinet Secretary has not been receptive to talks and has suggested that support may be withdrawn if the contract is terminated early, citing that the financial support would need to support from a revenue to a capital contribution. And his response on May 24 2018 the Cabinet Secretary suggested instead to pursue savings from the existing PPP contracts.

“I still believe with continued financial support from the Scottish Government a better deal for taxpayers could be negotiated. I remain very willing to hold discussions.”

The meeting earlier heard how some workers at the PPP schools are not being paid the living wage. 

SNP councillor Tony Gurney said: “These schools now cost the residents of North Ayrshire over £1 million every month. Legally this money must be paid to the owners of the PPP contracts before this council can buy a single school book, or fill a single pot hole, or empty a single bin.”

“The lowest paid in our society, essential workers such as cleaners and janitors, are not being paid the living wage by the huge conglomerates that own these contracts, leading to huge hardship for them and their families.”