DAWN Robinson-Walsh, whose recent letter was headlined "PFI failure has caused a split", has clearly misunderstood recent reports in your paper on how Bury Council has approached the issue of funding much-needed improvements to the borough's high schools.

Firstly, she suggests there is a split in the council's Executive between Councillor Steve Perkins, the Executive member for lifelong learning, and myself over the local education authority's strategy for prioritising investment in our 14 high schools. Since I am not, and never have been, a member of the Executive this conclusion is obviously false. As your recent report makes clear, I chaired the lifelong learning scrutiny commission which questioned Coun Perkins and council officers on how our January PFI bid was put together and made recommendations on how the process can be improved for future bids.

Secondly, Ms Robinson-Walsh implies that the failure of the January bid for £37.5 million to fund a new high school in Radcliffe and deliver major improvements to Tottington and Derby high schools was ill-thought out. She conveniently overlooks the fact that Bury's was one of 56 bids of which only 18 were approved. Our neighbours in Rochdale and Salford both succeeded this time round after previous failed bids.

Ms Robinson-Walsh goes on to conclude that if councillors spent less time writing to the papers and more time on work in the town hall we would somehow be able to find the funds necessary to modernise our schools through existing budgets. Clearly she does not appreciate the scale of investment needed to make the borough's high schools fit for the 21st century.

The LEA's asset management plan makes it clear that just to maintain our existing high schools over the next 25 years, spending nothing on modernisation, will cost around £89 million. Not only are all our schools struggling with the legacy of years of under-funding and lack of investment during the 80s and 90s, but several may well be reaching the stage where it will be more cost-effective to re-build them rather than patch them up.

In February the Department for Education and Science (DfES) issued a consultation document which is proposing that future rounds of PFI funding could be for projects worth up to £150 million. This level of funding has the potential to deliver massive improvements to our high school system.

While it may seem an attractive prospect for a Harwood resident such as Ms Robinson-Walsh to suggest that we should ignore PFI and fund school improvements from cuts in other services, I do not think that this is an attractive prospect for those of us actually living in the borough.



Radcliffe North Ward.