New schools in Conwy will be built via a new partnership between Welsh Government, councils and the private sector – but it was the only option available.

Conwy county council’s cabinet officially embraced the Mutual Investment Model (MIM) on Tuesday.

It means for the next 10 years all new schools can only be built using a new type of public private partnership if the county wants Welsh Government funding.

Multi-national project management company Meridiam was chosen by Welsh Government as its partner in the scheme.

It will form part of a new company called WEPCo with the Development Bank of Wales, which will plan, design, build and maintain all new build schools in Conwy for at least the next 10 years.

In a report to Conwy county’s education and skills scrutiny committee the only option presented was: “The Council understands that if it wishes to access revenue funding for Band B (new build schools) projects from the Welsh Government then it will need to use the MIM to access the funding and WEPCo for delivery.

“There are no alternative delivery options for such funding.”

Leader, Cllr Sam Rowlands called it a “really important part of children’s education for decades to come” which he was “really excited” to see.

Chief executive Iwan Davies called it an “important step in what is going to be a really exciting development for our schools”.

The council’s cabinet today voted to enter into a “strategic Partnership Agreement” (SPA) with WEPCo.

The authority’s director of education and social care, Jenny Williams, will sit on a Strategic Partnership Board (SPB) on behalf of Conwy county council to monitor the performance of the new company.

It was also noted that Conwy would have the ability to stipulate local contractors worked on the projects through the partnership board.

This means refurbishment and extensions of schools will still be capital funded projects arranged by the council but new school builds, which must be exclusively through the new company for the next 10 years, will be revenue funded.

Conwy will effectively pay a “rental” fee covering construction, maintenance and financing costs for a fixed period.

At the end of the term, which will be a minimum of 25 years, the school would be handed over to the local authority.

One of the features of the deals, says Welsh Government, is there will be no “soft” charges, which saw some Public Private Partnership deals hammering the public purse with inflated bills for changing light bulbs and cleaning buildings.

Coed Pella was built on a variation of the Mutual Investment Model, where developers M&G made the outlay on the building (£38.5m, including £3.5m profit) but would see council tax payers charged £58 million over 40 years.

In this incarnation of the public-private finance model Welsh Government will contribute 89 per cent of the yearly revenue (rental) cost and Conwy county council 19 per cent.