Bilfinger schools takeover

THE day-to-day running of the Borders’s three most modern schools should not be affected after the company leading the consortium installing Edinburgh’s controversial tram network bought out its remaining partner in the Borders schools private finance initiative (PFI) project.

So says Scottish Borders Council, following news that German giant Bilfinger Berger Global Infrastructure confirmed it had acquired Graham Investment Projects’ 25 per cent stake in the Borders schools scheme for £2.8million.

Joint chief executive of Bilfinger Frank Schramm said the consideration paid for the project was in line with the current valuation of similar PFI projects in the UK in the group’s portfolio.

Bilfinger Berger was the main stake holder in the Scottish Borders Education Partnership (SBEP) which was chosen by SBC to design, build and maintain the three new schools under a multi-million pound Private Public Partnership (PPP).

A spokesperson for SBC told us this week: “We are aware that equity holdings in this type of contract do change, however, this should not affect the day-to-day operation of the schools.”

However, the project – which will see SBC repay a total of £279million by the end of the 30-year build and maintenance contract – has not been without its controversies.

When it was announced in 2006 that SBEP had been awarded the contract, Bilfinger Berger said it aimed to have the new schools open by August, 2008.

But it was not until February of the following year before pupils could move into the new Berwickshire High School, while Eyemouth pupils only got access a month later.

Then in August, 2009, the new Eyemouth school was damaged by heavy rain that leaked into the first floor level of the building and seeped through light fittings.

And this year saw a legal wrangle between SBEP and Scottish Borders Council over delays about power supply access.