SOUTH Ayrshire Council is paying out just short of a staggering £11million a year to private companies for just five schools.

The astonishing figures come from a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) submitted by GMB Scotland. Union bosses this week branded the figure “obscene”.

Barassie Primary, Monkton Primary, Prestwick Academy, Belmont Academy and Alloway Primary were all built using PPP agreements, where firms front up the cash for investment projects, but are then paid back large amounts from the public purse over decades-long contracts.

The schemes are popular because the initial outlay stays off the council’s balance sheet – but the taxpayer often pays up to 10 times the cost of the project.

In 2016/17, South Ayrshire Council paid out £10,806,855 to the firms involved in the school construction.

Paul Arkison, GMB Scotland, said: “This is a completely absurd amount of money for small local authorities to be paying in PPP payments.

“Many GMB members in Ayrshire have seen their hours of work cut and are worried about their futures, yet this sickening amount of money gets paid to greedy private companies who have no interest or care for the good people of Ayrshire.

“Many of our members who work in these schools are employed by private companies and are denied the Scottish Living Wage by profit making penny pinching. It is high time Ayrshire councils ordered a review of these contract.”

South Ayrshire are not alone: North Ayrshire Council’s annual PPP spend for schools is £12,492,144 for just four schools: Greenwood Academy, St Matthews Academy, Stanley Primary and Arran High School.

East Ayrshire Council shelled out £9,992,440 for Grange Campus, St Joseph’s and Shortlees Primaries.

Donald Gillies, South Ayrshire Council's Head of Property and Risk, said: "

“In order to qualify for Scottish Government funding, the Council entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract with Education 4 Ayrshire (E4A) in 2006, with ‘unitary charge’ payments made each year as per the terms of the agreement.

“Our long term investment in the PPP programme has delivered five fantastic new schools and one secondary annexe across South Ayrshire, which provide significant benefits to thousands of pupils on a daily basis.

“Our annual payment covers areas including: construction costs, day-to-day maintenance, health and safety checks, cleaning, general decoration, and repairs as necessary.

“Once the contract concludes, the schools will be handed back in a fit for purpose condition so they will be safe, structurally sound, and fully maintained, making sure our young people continue to benefit from this investment for many years.”