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Asbestos in Schools

Wales online

" Cardiff Council to fork out £1.2m to remove asbestos from empty High School"

" The cost of asbestos removal as part of a Cardiff council schools project has rocketed to £1.2m after a “significant” amount was found at Llanedeyrn High School".

Comment: It is ironic that Cardiff council will now spend £1.2million on the removal of asbestos from a school that is about to be demolished. Penarth Council will spend £250,000 extra on removing ‘unexpected’ asbestos from three schools it is demolishing.

A fundamental question is the morality of a Government policy that allows generations of children and staff to occupy schools that contains dangerous asbestos and then removes it when it no longer presents a risk to them.  Caerphilly Council have shown they do not agree with this policy and are presently removing asbestos materials containing amosite from all occupied areas of their schools. The Shadow Minister responsible for the HSE also aims to have a long term strategic policy of removing asbestos from buildings, including schools.

The “unexpected” asbestos lagging found in ducting beneath the floors of the Cardiff system built school raises the question: Why wasn’t this asbestos identified when the school was in operation when surveyors are meant to look in ducting?  It demonstrates that assurances are often unjustified as it cannot be claimed asbestos is being safely managed when no one knows it is there.  The Department for Education argued strongly and successfully against asbestos surveys being made mandatory, and when surveys are done they are often inadequate as all too often schools and local authorities go for the cheapest bids which fail to identify much of the less accessible asbestos.

The Welsh Government’s Schools for the 21st Century Programme was launched in 2011 at a cost of £1.4 billion. The cost of removal of asbestos from just these few schools will make a significant inroad into the programme’s financial forecasts. In England the long overdue report of the Property Data Survey Programme, the audit of the condition of school buildings, specifically excluded asbestos. This was an indefensible and negligent decision as asbestos is one of the major costs in maintaining, refurbishing or demolishing a school. The significant ‘unexpected’ costs in demolishing these schools caused by asbestos underlines why a national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos should have been carried out at the start of the programmes.  Because it was not, any financial forecasts that have been made will be meaningless.