School building cancellations leave a £160 million bill for councils

Town halls had to negotiate 60 separate documents, submit ‘strategic overviews’ to Government and create project boards to oversee their submissions.

A snapshot survey carried out by the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, has found more than £161,448,000 has been spent by 67 authorities getting ready for rebuilding programmes which have now been cancelled.

The LGA is calling for preparatory work and plans drawn up under the BSF scheme to be eligible for consideration under any new programme to share out capital funding.

Schools which have had programmes scrapped are also entitled to a clear explanation of why their project is no longer considered viable, and should get some guidance on when they might next attract investment.

Cllr Shireen Ritchie, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Board at the LGA, said:

“The Building Schools for the Future programme meant significant investment for many areas and has been a boost to local economies. Obviously families, schools and councils affected by the cuts to the programme will be bitterly disappointed. The process was over-bureaucratic and wasted councils’ time and money, but the key issue is that around 700 schools and 80 councils now have to deal with plans being cancelled and scaled back.

“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.

“In these times of tight public spending no-one expects the Government to sign a blank cheque, but there are clearly some schools which need to take priority over others and get access to money for building work.

“Many councils and schools are currently in limbo, with no clear idea when or if long-held hopes of new, modern buildings will go ahead. It’s crucial now that local areas, schools and the families that use them get some straight answers about what they can expect to be done to improve and maintain the schools their children spend hours in day after day.”

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