Legal battle fails to revive schools plans

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MULTI-MILLION pound plans to rebuild Rotherham secondary schools will not be revived by the Government’s High Court defeat by six local authorities.

Rotherham was one of the councils which saw its Building Schools for the Future programme scrapped last summer shortly after the Coalition came to power.

But Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision with regard to the six councils was overturned by Mr Justice Holman, who ruled he had unlawfully failed to consult them before imposing the cuts.

The judge said each council should be given an ‘opportunity to make representations’ in a new review of the plans.

Rotherham’s BSF bid was worth £222 million, and was put together alongside a £24m bid for ICT systems for the borough’s schools.

The cancellation cost the authority £1.6m for work already carried out.

Karl Battersby, the council’s strategic director for environment and development services, said: “We are pleased the judge has ruled in favour of a rethink of the six councils’ BSF schemes but at this stage it appears this will have little impact on Rotherham.

“The councils involved were at a different stage with their projects having already started to build some schools in earlier ‘waves’ of BSF.

“Rotherham was at a later stage in the process and although schools had been identified for work to be carried out, no partner contractor had been procured so we were a while away from building work starting.

“The judge’s ruling also makes clear that he feels it is ‘far too late’ for other councils to submit a review following this one and that the Government does not have to reconsider its general decision to scrap BSF.

“We continue to await the national James Review into capital funding which will set the Government’s plans for rebuilding and refurbishing schools to see how that may benefit our schools.”

Doncaster’s proposals were scrapped so it is in a similar position.

Mr Gove dismissed calls from Labour he should play no part in the review of cancelled school building projects.

“The judge has not ordered a reinstatement of funding for any BSF project. Nor has he ordered me to pay compensation to any of the claimants,” he told MPs.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said it was a ‘damning verdict’ which raised doubts about the education secretary’s competence and judgment.