Concerns raised by councillor over £47million Berwick schools project with cash "staggered"

A Berwick councillor has hit out at Northumberland County Council’s Conservative administration over the Berwick schools project.
Berwick Academy. Photo: NCJ Media.Berwick Academy. Photo: NCJ Media.
Berwick Academy. Photo: NCJ Media.

Coun Georgina Hill said the local authority had not progressed the £47million scheme enough ahead of the crunch budget meeting next week.

The capital programme shows that the funding for the schools has been split, with £4.8million provided in 2024/25, followed by £25.9million in 2026/27 and £12.9million in 2027/28.

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The Berwick East ward councillor was unhappy that the Berwick project appeared to have “ground to a halt” while others, such as those in the Seaton Valley and Amble, were moving forward.

The deputy leader of the council has defended this, saying that more time was taken to consult with stakeholders.

Coun Hill said; “There has been a complete failure to progress with building a new school for Berwick or show any genuine commitment to delivery. I have repeatedly raised this and I am met with lethargy, incompetence and a ‘can’t do’ attitude.

“School building programmes elsewhere in the county are moving forward, while for Berwick it has ground to a halt.

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“Our children and young people and future generations deserve so much better.

“They keep pushing the dates back, haven’t even increased the funding to match inflation and, as with the Maltings, this means that, with costs escalating, the viability of the whole project is in jeopardy.”

Coun Richard Wearmouth, the deputy leader of the council, said: “The Conservative administration’s plans for the £47.5million rebuild of the Berwick schools are unchanged.

“More time was taken on consultation to ensure that the public backed our plans. All Berwick councillors will be aware of this.”

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Last summer, the council gave approval to the plans for the investment to improve facilities after an agreement was reached to move to a two-tier system. Consultation on the switch first got under way in 2018.

Under the proposals, 11 first schools in the area will become primary schools from September 2025, while Berwick Middle School, Tweedmouth Community and Glendale Middle School will close from August 31, 2026. Berwick Academy will see its age range change from 13-18 to 11-18.

Furthermore, SEN units will be established at Berwick Academy and Berwick St Mary’s Church of England First School in order to support children with additional needs.

At the time, the council said it aimed to have planning permission in place by 2025, with the middle schools to close the following year.