So that's settled - Government not council will fund new school

Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis, Cambridgeshire County Council's director of education. Picture: CAMBRIDGESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Cambridgeshire County Council

A new 600-pupil secondary school WILL be built in Wisbech but the costs will be met by the Government and not by the county council.  

Confirmation that the expected £25m bill will fall to the Department for Education (DfE) was confirmed to the county council children and young people’s committee on Tuesday. 

The council says that as a result it “withdrew its existing proposals to build new provision in the town” and allow the DfE to begin consultations over location and design.  

Jon Lewis, Cambridgeshire’s director of education, says that there is enough secondary provision in Wisbech to meet the needs of local children until the new school is delivered. 

Council leader Lucy Nethsingha explained that because the project will be a 'free school' it was usual for the DfE to deliver it. 

She said: "To deliver this school would have a very high cost for the council (perhaps around £25 million). 

"It would be very hard for the council to justify spending that amount of money on a new school in Wisbech when there is no immediate shortage of school places 

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“The council has a £22million budget deficit (left us by the Conservative budget last year) in trying to deliver the social care and other statutory services, which we need to fund in the next year.” 

Opposition leader Steve Count believes this to be “a disgraceful spin on reality”.  

He tweeted: “CCC pulled out of building a new secondary, with location, funding and timetable.  

“Instead, a new site search has begun, no timetable exists and the risk of the school not being built was added to the risk register.” 

A council spokesperson said the views of the public on new proposals will be subject to a separate consultation run by the DfE “who will now be responsible for the procurement and delivery of the school”. 

In February the DfE announced it would fund a new “once in a generation” secondary school in Wisbech.  

The Brooke Weston Trust – which already operates Thomas Clarkson Academy and Peckover Primary School – was granted the funds to open ‘Wisbech Free School’.   

They applied under wave 14 of the department’s Free School Application Process in 2019 and after several delays the announcement was made.