Councils spent £160m on axed school projects

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Indy Politics

Councils spent more than £160 million on school rebuilding projects that have now been cancelled by the Government, it was disclosed today.

Under Labour's £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF), local authorities carried out public consultations and recruited and commissioned designers and architects amongst other preparatory work, the Local Government Association said (LGA).

It is calling for this work to be eligible for use under any new scheme established to carry put school building work.

A snapshot survey by the LGA, which represents councils across England, shows than more than £161,448,000 has been spent by 67 authorities in preparation for building projects in their areas.

Education Secretary Michael Gove axed the BSF programme last week. He has since come under fire from MPs - including some from within his own party - over his handling of the decision.

He was forced to apologise to the Commons, and later said sorry again to council leaders, after it emerged that an initial list of 715 affected projects was strewn with errors - many schools believed to have escaped the axe later learned their re-building projects would be affected.

Councillor Shireen Ritchie, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People's Board, said: "Councils have invested millions of pounds of taxpayers' money preparing for school building schemes which they are told will now not go ahead. Town halls which have embraced this Government initiative should not be out of pocket and their residents should not end up footing the bill.

"Getting valuable public money to the frontline without wasting it on unnecessary bureaucracy and form-filling is a priority for local government, and it is encouraging that Michael Gove has stressed his commitment to getting more core funding directly to schools, via councils. Councils cannot now send good money after bad, so any future plans for school rebuilding should use preparatory work which has been done already as far as is practical."