UK Politics

Labour 'would have cut school building scheme'

Temporary school building in Sandwell
Image caption Some schools awaiting rebuilds rely on temporary classrooms

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg has admitted that Labour's school building programme "didn't always deliver absolute value for money".

He also told the Observer he would have cut £2bn from the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) budget if re-elected.

The coalition government scrapped the £55bn BSF project in July 2010, arguing it had been beset by "massive overspends" and "needless bureaucracy".

At the time, Labour described the cancellation as "a tragedy".

Under the BSF scheme, every secondary school in England was to have been be rebuilt or refurbished.

But Education Secretary Michael Gove cancelled projects at more than 700 schools, sparking complaints from teachers, pupils and unions.

'Greater efficiency'

In the newspaper interview, Mr Twigg said: "I have accepted that while BSF and other capital programmes did some brilliantly good things - and I have been to some of the schools built under that programme - it didn't always deliver absolute value for money.

"There is scope to do what BSF did at a lower price and there are lessons we can learn from BSF and other projects to achieve greater efficiency."

Image caption Mr Twigg is the latest in a number of senior Labour figures to accept some spending cuts

A government-commissioned review published last April said BSF delivered consistently poor value for money and savings of up to 30% could have been made, for example, by standardising the design of all new buildings.

Mr Twigg's comments are the latest in a number by senior Labour figures accepting some of the government's spending cuts.

Earlier this month, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said his party would also have made £5bn of government cuts to the military.

And on Sunday, Ed Miliband told the BBC he agreed with a public sector pay freeze imposed by the coalition.

Mr Miliband said Labour was "determined to show it would be fiscally credible in government", but insisted ministers were still cutting too far and too fast.

For example, he said his party was in favour of a 12% reduction in the police budget - compared with the 20% currently being implemented.

Mr Twigg told the newspaper: "I think this is a very, very good example where I can rise, in a sense, to the challenge Ed Miliband has set for all of us in the shadow cabinet."

He also said he supported government plans to make it easier for schools to sack poorly performing teachers.

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