By Vivienne Russell
11 February 2011
Six councils have won their legal challenge against the
government over the cancelled Building Schools for the Future scheme.
Mr Justice Holman ruled in the High Court that the way the
education secretary stopped the BSF projects was both ‘unfair’ and ‘unlawful’.
The London boroughs of Newham and Waltham Forest; Kent
County Council, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Nottingham City Council
and Luton Borough Council brought the judicial review after Education Secretary
Michael Gove halted the nationwide BSF programme last year.
In his ruling, the judge criticised Gove’s failure to
consult with the affected councils before pulling the plug on their school
building schemes. He said: ‘The way in which the secretary of state abruptly stopped the projects…
without any prior consultation… must be characterised as being so unfair as to
amount to an abuse of power.
‘However pressing the economic problems, there was no "overriding
public interest" which precluded any consultation or justifies the lack of
The secretary of
state’s failure to discharge his statutory equality duties when making the
decision was also ruled to be unlawful.
Holman said Gove now
needed to reconsider the position of each of the claimants with an ‘open mind
and paying due regard to whatever representations they may respectively make’.
But he added that
the final decision on the future of individual building projects rested with
the secretary of state. ‘No one should gain false hope from this decision.’
Darren Cooper said: ‘I feel we have been vindicated for the money we spent
fighting this decision.The judge's
decision has clearly shown a lack of transparency in Gove's decision.’
He added: ‘Now we have to wait to see whether the government
accepts it was too hasty in scrapping the scheme. We have just got to wait with
‘And in view of
this High Court decision I have to say that I do not now feel confident that
Gove is competent to look at this issue again.’
But the education secretary responded that the judge had
rejected the contention that the decision to end the BSF was irrational.
‘We are delighted that the judge did not call into
questionthe decision to end the wasteful and bureaucratic
Building Schools for the Future programme. On the substantive points he
concluded that it was a rational decision and that the authorities involved had
no expectation of being allowed to proceed with their projects.’