MP doubts about vent repair cost at Barra school

Western Isles MP, Angus MacNeil.
Western Isles MP, Angus MacNeil.

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has expressed severe doubts over the Comhairle’s projected costs of more than £5,000 to repair a ventilation system at Eoligarry School on Barra, dubbing the repair bill a “farce”.

The Stornway Gazette reported last week that the Comhairle plans to close Eoligarry’s canteen, leaving the school’s cook without a job, after she raised health and safety concerns over a broken ventilation system.

But following a meeting with parents of pupils from Eoligarry last Thursday, Mr MacNeil said: “After the meeting, I asked to see the famous ventilation system, it turns out to look no more than a glorified extractor fan.

“The fan does work on one of the settings but the boost setting doesn’t work. It is possible that the problem could be a switch or a fuse, meaning the cost to repair could be £5 rather than £5,000.

“It seems that the Comhairle has not been to look at the ventilation system, but instead has marched ahead with threatening to close the canteen, preventing children from getting food freshly cooked on the school premises.

“Eoligarry canteen has one of the highest uptakes of school dinners in the islands and parents attribute that to the skill of their long-serving and caring cook who is now threatened with redundancy.

“The Comhairle need to clarify why the cost of £5,000 has been attached to repairing a piece of equipment that hasn’t been assessed.

“I am now writing to Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education, who disappointingly wasn’t at the meeting, to ask that the ventilation system be looked at to confirm when it was last serviced.

“This is fast turning into a farce, the Comhairle would be wise to withdraw the threat to Eoligarry canteen.”

A spokesman for the Comhairle said: “The ventilation system is an extractor unit. The extractor function is what provides appropriate ventilation to the kitchen area.

“The Comhairle sent a member of Technical Services to the school to check the unit. The unit is not working efficiently to ventilate the kitchen. The unit is old and beyond economic repair.

“The work was put out to tender and £5,100 was considered the best value quote.”