Councils slam BSF fiasco

8 Jul 10
Councils have condemned the botched scrapping of the school refurbishment programme, calling the situation ‘bizarre and disgraceful
By Vivienne Russell

8 July 2010

Councils have condemned the botched scrapping of the school refurbishment programme, calling the situation ‘bizarre and disgraceful’.

On July 5, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the Building Schools for the Future programme was to be halted, with many planned works not going ahead. However, it emerged that some of the details published alongside the announcement were incorrect. Some schools that thought their building scheme had been reprieved were subsequently told it would not go ahead.

Gove yesterday apologised to MPs for the mishandling of the information. ‘A number of schools were miscategorised, and for that I apologise,’ he told the Commons.

‘In particular, there were schools that were listed as proceeding when, in fact, their rebuild will not now go ahead. That confusion caused members of this House and members of the public understandable distress and concern, and I wish to take full personal responsibility for that regrettable error.’

Council leaders in affected areas have reacted angrily. Steve Eling, Cabinet member for resources at Sandwell Council in the West Midlands, said there was confusion over which of the council’s school building schemes would proceed, adding that the consequences for the area would be serious.

‘The official letter lodged in the House of Commons library says our Building Schools for the Future scheme was confirmed and now that appears to have been reneged upon,’ he said.

‘The situation is bizarre and disgraceful and it is something we will have to challenge because the impact of not going ahead on our educational facilities will be dire.

‘The reason for Building Schools for the Future, and the investment which it would bring, was to raise educational standards and it is outrageous this will have been stolen from under our noses.’

His colleague Bob Badham, Sandwell’s Cabinet member for children and families, added: ‘The cutback will put building firms in a difficult situation because they are relying on it for much-needed work.’

Sutton Council in southwest London said it also intended to lobby ministers after £75m of promised refurbishments for five of the borough’s schools were scrapped.

Council leader Sean Brennan said the pressure on school places in the borough meant some kind of capital investment was needed.

‘Our schools are among the best in the country and are exceptionally popular both locally and with children travelling from outside the borough and demand for places is set to increase further following a dramatically rising birth rate. 

‘We look forward to working with the government to ensure that sufficient investment will still be made to school buildings so that our children get the school places and the education they deserve,’ Brennan said.

Gove is addressing the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Bournemouth this afternoon.

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