Legal threat over school building cuts

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The Independent Online

Scores of construction companies and local authorities are lining up to sue the Government over the cancellation of school building programmes, MPs were told yesterday.

Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools (PfS), the quango set up to oversee Labour's £55bn modernisation plan, said: "I know a great many people are thinking about it."

The firms and councils intend to sue for compensation for thousands of pounds spent on planning the work, which was due to be carried out on 700 secondary schools.

Addressing an all-party Commons Select Committee on Education yesterday, Mr Byles said he had told civil servants they must double-check the list of schools facing the axe because the information was "fairly fluid" and likely to be out of date – but his advice was ignored.

"We advised it would be wise to validate this information with each local authority prior to publication due to the inherent risk of error," he said.

Conservative sources blamed PfS for the mistakes in the list, but Mr Byles stressed the body was only obliged to hold information on those who had already reached the procurement stage.

The errors embarrassed Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who had to apologise to MPs.