Embattled Gove promises cash for school buildings

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The Independent Online

Education Secretary Michael Gove vowed today to "continue to invest in school buildings" despite axeing Labour's £55 billion rebuilding programme.

Writing in the Sunday Express, he also said ministers "hope to help people in all those areas who feel disappointed" by the decision to cancel more than 700 school rebuilding projects.

His comments come as shadow education secretary Ed Balls promised to fight the Government's cuts "all the way".

Seeking to pile more pressure on Mr Gove, Mr Balls launched a "Save our Schools" campaign and called on parents and teachers to join a Westminster rally later this month.

The Education Secretary is facing a growing backlash from MPs, including Tories, after announcing the end of Labour's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme last week.

Anger deepened after it then emerged that a list of 715 affected projects was strewn with errors, so that many schools thought they had escaped the axe only to learn otherwise later. Mr Gove was forced to apologise to the Commons.

Mr Gove told the Sunday Express that some schools were "understandably disappointed that they won't be getting the money the last government boasted about and I feel for them".

He said: "We will of course continue to invest in school buildings and hope to help people in all those areas who feel disappointed now.

"We will make sure there are more places for primary pupils and help schools in need of serious repair."

But, writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Balls said: "The real sin isn't the mess of the announcement, it's the madness of the policy.

"And the ultimate responsibility for these unfair and unnecessary cuts rests with Michael Gove, and him alone."

He urged opponents of the cuts to sign up to his campaign at http://www.save-our-schools.org.uk and to join him at a rally in Westminster on Monday, July 19.

"We really must fight these cuts all the way," Mr Balls, who is in the running to become the next Labour leader, said.

Four Tory MPs have so far spoken out about BSF cuts affecting their constituencies - Gavin Barwell, Philip Davies, Ian Liddell-Grainger and Gordon Henderson.

Liberal Democrat minister Nick Harvey has also warned that the "credibility" of the coalition Government was at risk if it failed quickly to set out alternative funding to fix "inadequate" buildings.

There was continued confusion about which projects were affected and the criteria set by Mr Gove.

Some on the hitlist of those facing the chop have already reached "financial close" with contractors. Mr Gove said this week that projects already at that stage would be safe.

Wigan Borough Council, which has reached financial close on a number of projects which have nevertheless appeared on the list, is writing to the Education Secretary for clarification.

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