Government under-fire after axing green improvements of schools
Under fire education secretary Michael Gove has failed to see off his critics after a fifth attempt to draw up a list of where £55 billion of cuts will hit the school's rebuilding programme.
Mr Gove’s team worked through the weekend but today (July 13) the criticism of plans to scrap green buildings improvements at hundreds of schools have not stopped.
The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has been put on ice, sparking fears that one of the major work sources for companies specialising in green construction techniques could be lost.
Mr Gove says 715 schools will no longer be rebuilt or refurbished through BSF. Of these, nearly 180 schools were projected to be new builds and more than 319 remodelled or refurbished.
The MP has also been attacked over mistakes to the list of school that will now not be rebuilt and could face legal action from construction firms and local authorties.
Almost a million pounds allocated to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) advice service associated with the scheme has also been cut.
Mr Gove ended the BSF programme saying that in light of public finances, it would have been irresponsible to carry on regardless with an “inflexible and needlessly complex programme”.
Shadow schools secretary, Ed Balls, said: “Did he at any point receive written or oral advice from departmental officials or Partnerships for Schools urging him not to publish a list of schools until after he had consulted local authorities to make sure his criteria were sound and his facts were right?
“Was he also advised of the risk of legal challenge from private contractors, but nevertheless decided to take that risk with taxpayers’ money?
“I welcome the fact that the Public Accounts Committee is minded to investigate what’s happened including the multi-million pound bill the taxpayer will now face in compensation claims as a result of Mr Gove’s decisions and the way he has handled this fiasco.
“The education secretary would also be wise to stop making exaggerated and false claims to try to rubbish the BSF programme in order to justify these cuts.
“He has already had to set the record straight on some of the examples he quoted in his statement last week. Now his latest claim of waste in the programme turns out to be false too and I hope he will withdraw it.”
Only those schools where projects are already underway can breathe easy, with those that had almost sealed a deal and approaching a close of the dialogue stage still wary of the hovering axe.
The fate of these 14 projects will be decided on a case by case basis. Many specialist construction companies and architects practices had based their workload on the programme and will be hit hard by the cuts.
The government is launching a comprehensive review of all capital investment in schools, early years facilities, colleges and sixth forms.