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Wakefield schools have made ‘loads of complaints’ over outstanding repairs

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Schools in Wakefield have made “loads of complaints” over outstanding repairs still to be carried out by the council’s private contractor, it’s been claimed.

ENGIE were trusted with the maintenance of more than 80 schools in the district as part of a £200m contract signed in 2016. At the time, it was the biggest privatisation in the history of the local authority.

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But last month it was revealed that the company had been handed six-figure fines by the council, following 900 individual breaches of the contract since the start of 2017.

Now, a Labour councillor has said he harbours “serious concerns” about the deal.

At a meeting of Wakefield’s overview and scrutiny management board on Monday, councillors were told that the local authority still has a “statutory responsibility” to ensure school buildings are safe.

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Kevin Fisher, from the council’s property services team, said that this still applied to academies and to sites where ENGIE had been tasked with maintenance.

He said: “We have people who go out on a monthly basis and carry out an audit on school buildings.

“If at any point ENGIE fail to deliver on that, there’s action we can take.”

In response committee chair Graham Isherwood said: “I’m getting loads of complaints from schools about this, which I’ll email you.

“We need to look at this very closely. I have very serious concerns.

“How can we be sure we’re getting value for money (over the contract)?”

Mr Fisher said that rules in the contract could force ENGIE to readjust their invoices.

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He said: “If at any point we can get those services cheaper anywhere else, we have something like a Tesco price promise, where ENGIE have to lower their prices to meet that.

“That’s written into the contract.”

A spokesperson for ENGIE said: “Over the summer break, our teams have completed over 60 minor works projects at schools across the district, and the feedback that we have received has been very positive.

“We remain committed to working with our partners at Wakefield Council to ensure that the people of the district receive the highest level of service.”