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BSF action may not be over

The majority of the six councils that appealed against the government’s decision to cancel their Building Schools for the Future schemes may continue to fight their case despite winning back their costs.

Following a High Court ruling in February that the scrapping of BSF projects was unlawful, education secretary Michael Gove announced last week that he was “minded” not to reinstate the six programmes. The councils have until 19 August to respond.

Mr Gove also announced that the government would cover the six councils’ costs incurred by the cancellation of their programmes, which has been viewed by the authorities as a partial victory.

Waltham Forest council in North east London has said it would press the government to help it deliver three more schools slated for construction under BSF.

Councillor Chris Robbins said: “Our position in relation to pupil places and the condition of our schools remains critical and BSF was the answer to this problem. It is for these very reasons that we challenged the government in the first place and we are disappointed that they have not listened to the compelling evidence which we presented them with.

“We will be pressing the government on the three schools which the original judge said were a special case, and we will continue to take all appropriate action to support our schools and young people.”

Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said he was “absolutely devastated” by the announcement that it looks set to get no money to rebuild its schools but vowed to continue the council’s campaign.

He said: “This is not the end. We intend to see if there is any more we can do to fight this injustice and we will use every means at our disposal.”

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Nottingham City Council told Construction News that it was consulting its legal advisers on the matter.

Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for Children’s Services, Councillor David Mellen said: “This announcement is subject to further representations from the authorities involved and we will of course be making our case for Nottingham’s schools.

“What the Secretary of State is minded to do does not appear to be in the spirit of the judgment in February and I am extremely disheartened that despite our best efforts, it looks highly unlikely that the funding previously agreed will be returned to us.”

A statement from Luton Borough Council welcomed Mr Gove’s pledge to pay its costs but said it was currently considering its position. While the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said Mr Gove’s recent response was an “insult”, the council’s position on a response is unclear.

Leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, said he was pleased about the decision to pay the council’s costs and also hailed the government’s launch of a new £2 billion privately financed school building programme.

He said: “We have already demonstrated to Michael Gove that quality buildings and facilities were possible at 30 to 40% less than the bureaucratic Building Schools for the Future programme.

“Kent County Council has been working very closely with the Department of Education to raise the profile of the need for substantial modernisation funds for Kent, particularly for the 14 wave 4 schools which were affected by the cancellation.

“We will continue to do all we can to make sure these schools are placed as high as possible up in the priority ranking system that the Department for Education establish.”