UK minister pledges to deal with crumbling school buildings quickly

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt appears at BBC Sunday

LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday the government would move to fix unsafe school buildings quickly after some 100 schools were told to shut some buildings due to old and crumbling concrete.

The order last week for schools to vacate buildings with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) came just days before the start of a new term for most children, angering parents and educators over the last minute decision.

Hunt told broadcasters a majority of the 104 affected schools — out of a total of 22,000 across England — will be able to operate largely normally.

"We will spend what it takes to sort out this problem as quickly as possible," he told the BBC.

RAAC, a lightweight form of concrete, was commonly used to build walls, floors and ceilings during the 1960s-80s but is today deemed much weaker than traditional concrete and as posing a serious safety risk.

The impression that public infrastructure is crumbling adds to the pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of an election expected next year, following a period marked by disruptive industrial action across healthcare, education and transport.

"The government has spent the summer sitting on its hands as the concrete crumbles in our schools," Bridget Phillipson, the education spokesperson for the opposition Labour Party, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Editing by Angus MacSwan)