WIRRAL Council is making contingency plans amid concerns that troubled building company Jarvis could be unable to complete its contracts on nine of the borough's schools.

In May, the authority renewed its contract with Jarvis, the construction firm responsible for a £55m improvement project involving eight Wirral secondary schools and a new primary school.

But recent drops in the company's share price have prompted speculation about its future and led to the local authority making alternative plans should Jarvis be unable to deliver on its promises.

Work by Jarvis at Wirral Grammar School for Girls, South Wirral High, Prenton High and Hilbre High is scheduled to be completed this August, in time for the new school year.

Wirral Council cabinet member for education, Cllr Phil Davies, said these were the schools the council has the most worries over.

He said: "Of the secondary schools, four are pretty much well along the road to completion, but it's the four remaining ones we are most concerned about."

He said council officers are now working on contingency plans should Jarvis be unable to complete any of its contracts.

Cllr Davies said: "The share price of Jarvis has dropped dramatically in the last few days. There is speculation about their future.

"At the moment we are working on the basis that unless we hear otherwise it's business as usual. But given what is happening we have to be prepared for all eventualities, and that includes possibly having to bring someone new in.

"We have our officers looking at various scenarios, we have people looking at the contracts and talking to Jarvis on a daily basis, looking at how they will be able to keep going, or otherwise.

"We would be failing in our duty if we didn't look at contingency plans. We are preparing for all sorts of possible outcomes. Our priority is to get these projects finished. We have not heard anything official about Jarvis's demise, and the work on our schools in Wirral is still continuing.

"Jarvis are saying to us they are still reasonably confident they can continue trading."

Last Friday, Jarvis announced its debt had risen to £230m and the company's share price has since dropped sharply.

A spokeswoman for Jarvis said: "We have been talking to all our partners and clients, including Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, to reassure them that it is business as usual for Jarvis and that the banks are fully supporting us.

"This announcement does not affect our ability to continue to deliver those projects we've started, which we are fully committed to, and will not affect projects we are currently bidding for."

She said recent cash settlements had boosted the company's fortunes and reassured its suppliers and contractors.

The spokeswoman added: "Critically, our lenders have confidence both in the business going forward and also the steps we are taking to restructure it."