Bedford mayor accuses Lib Dems of 'trying to worry people' in row over publishing list of buildings needing survey for potentially dangerous concrete

LibDem leader says it’s not about scare mongering – but being “open and transparent”
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Publishing a list of Bedford borough schools and council owned buildings that need crumbling concrete checks will “worry people”, the Bedford mayor has said.

But the Liberal Democrat leader said the request was not about scare mongering, but being “open and transparent”.

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During last night’s Executive Meeting (October 18) the Liberal Democrat Group leader, councillor Henry Vann (De Parys) asked for information on the possible use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in council buildings.

L Bedford Mayor Tom Wootton and R Cllr Henry Van. Screenshot Bedford Borough Council Executive meetingL Bedford Mayor Tom Wootton and R Cllr Henry Van. Screenshot Bedford Borough Council Executive meeting
L Bedford Mayor Tom Wootton and R Cllr Henry Van. Screenshot Bedford Borough Council Executive meeting

RAAC is a type of lightweight concrete which has a limited lifespan and could suddenly fail as it ages.

Councillor Vann said that council officers had briefed councillors that 33 maintained schools within the borough were identified as being at risk of being affected by Raac are being surveyed in more detail.

“Public buildings are also affected and need surveying, and have not yet been surveyed, according to a response sent today to the local democracy reporter,” he said.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) had asked the council how many of its buildings used Raac as part of their construction.

A council spokesperson told the LDRS: “At this stage, we have not identified any buildings within our corporate and investment estate that contain Raac.

“We are currently undertaking a desktop exercise on these properties, which will help to determine whether any of them require an intrusive survey in accordance with Raac government and industry published guidance.”

Councillor Vann asked: “Will the mayor commit this evening to publishing a list of those schools and council owned buildings where surveys are required?”

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The Conservative mayor, Tom Wootton, replied: “I won’t because I think you’re trying to worry people and trying to set hares loose. No Raac has been found in any of the maintained schools.”

The mayor added that asbestos had been found at one school.

Councillor Vann said: “With respect, that answered the question in the sense that you said, no, you won’t publish a list. It is not about setting hares running, it is about having concerns raised with us [answered]. It’s not about scare mongering at all, what it is about is transparency and openness.

“And if, as you say, you are so reassured that there is no problem then publish the list, say the surveys have been conducted and share that with the public.

“If however, that has not been the case and you have not completed the surveys then the statement you just gave that everything is fine is incorrect. They can’t both be true,” he said.

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The portfolio holder for families, education and children’s services, councillor Jane Walker (Conservative, Clapham & Oakley ) said: “I don’t think we can be any clearer than that, no Raac has been found in any of the maintained schools.

“Intrusive surveys have been done in all but one of our maintained schools, there’s nothing else we can say on that,” she said.

Councillor Vann said: “It’s not just about schools, with respect, as my question related to public buildings. It is simply about transparency, and that is all I’m asking for. If I hadn’t asked that question this evening that information wouldn’t have come out.”