£260m 'wasted' in axing school building plans

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

  • Published
construction workers
Image caption,
Councils want "straight answers" on why school projects were scrapped

The scrapping of school building plans has cost education authorities at least £160m, says the Local Government Association.

This is in addition to the estimated £100m which construction companies say they have spent on cancelled bids.

Councils are also demanding answers for why individual projects have been stopped.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has had to apologise to councils over mistakes in cancelling projects.

Mr Gove has faced tough questions from MPs across the political spectrum about the scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future programme.

'Ripped off'

On Monday he published a fifth version of the list showing which projects will be protected and which will be stopped - after earlier versions were found to contain errors.

But councils have been angered that they have already spent millions on preparing for building projects - and that they are still left "in limbo" about what happens next.

The construction industry is also warning that it has lost £100m in the cost of bidding for projects that were then scrapped.

Noble Francis, economist for the Construction Products Association, says contractors will be waiting to find why projects were stopped, before deciding whether to claim compensation.

The LGA says it has contacted more than three quarters of affected authorities - and these have spent more than £161m in planning and preparation. A spokeswoman says the total could reach £200m.

Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock has said that costs should be refunded by the government - and that otherwise councils would have been "ripped off".

The local authority group says that councils are still uncertain about whether there will be further reviews of decisions about building projects.

In particular, there are concerns that there has been no clarification about why projects have been stopped.

"Councils have invested millions of pounds of taxpayers' money preparing for school building schemes which they are told will now not go ahead," says Shireen Ritchie, chair of the LGA's children and young people's board.

"Town halls which have embraced this government initiative should not be out of pocket and their residents should not end up footing the bill.

"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."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The fact that 67 councils have spent more than £160m simply preparing for entry into Building Schools for the Future, without a single brick being laid in any of these authorities, shows exactly why we had to bring an end to this scandalous waste of public money."

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