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Schools vandals cost Flintshire County Council £40,000 to repair

VANDALISM and burglary at Flintshire schools cost the council nearly £40,000 last year, new figures have revealed.

The authority was forced to fork out £17,273 on repairing the effects of vandalism in the 2009/10 financial year and lost a damaging £21,074 as a result of break-ins in the same period.

A staggering £231,954 was also spent as a result of arson attacks at both primary and secondary schools between 2005 and 2009.

The figures have emerged as part of a report to Flintshire County Council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee, which will meet to discuss the issue this afternoon (Tuesday, March 8).

Committee chairman and school governor Cllr Peter Macfarlane said: “I used to work as a firefighters for Cheshire fire service and the number of schools we lost to arson attacks was astronomical.

“It cost the council a huge amount of money, but there is the emotional cost to consider too, as well as the disruption to children’s education, which is unquantifiable.

“Much of the damage caused to schools through acts of burglary, vandalism and arson is also uninsurable as well, which has a massive impact.”

Among the schools worst hit in the last five years are Holywell High, which had a vandalism repair bill of £30,338 between 2005 and 2009, and Ysgol Gwenffrwd, also in Holywell, which had its wooden fences torched.

The town’s high school was also targeted by arsonists in 2009, along with John Summers High School, Queensferry and Ysgol Gwynedd and St Mary’s Primary School, both in Flint.

But despite the worrying cost of crime, the report states that incidents of vandalism, burglary and arson at schools have fallen significantly during the past five years thanks to the council’s partnership working with North Wales Police and Neighbourhood Watch teams.

Among the measures introduced to combat incidents are regular meetings with school caretakers, patrols by the police helicopter and encouraging schools to become part of Flintshire Neighbourhood Watch Association’s Online Watch Link, known as OWL.

Three schools – Ysgol Owen Jones in Northop, Ysgol Bryn Deva, Connah’s Quay and John Summers – are all set to get improved CCTV systems thanks to a £25,000 Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) grant.

Cllr Macfarlane added: “It is good news that incidents have fallen and I think that is thanks to the vigilance and hard work by everyone involved.

“But we cannot sit back and relax now thinking the problem has gone away, because it never will.

“We need to continue with the security measures, particularly at such an uncertain economic time when budgets are tight.

“Every pound we manage to save through reducing crime at our schools is a pound that can be spent on improving them.”