Fresh row over axed Bolton and Wigan BSFs

Aaron Morby 14 years ago

Gaffe-prone education secretary Michael Gove is under fire again after it emerged that two BSF schemes will still be axed even after reaching financial close months ago.

Both Wigan and Bolton BSF schemes each worth more than £80m had reached the crucial milestone which protected all other school schemes from the chop.

Now councils are calling on the education minister to spell out his reasons for cutting off funding.

Wigan BSF comprised five schools due to be built by Laing O’Rourke, while Balfour Beatty was due to deliver seven Bolton school projects as part of a larger £450m deal covering Blackburn and Darwen.

The failure of Bolton’s bid for school rebuilding cash means extra costs will fall on Blackburn and Darwen

Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton are now negotiating with developer Balfour Beatty to decide who will cover the costs.

And the two councils – whose joint bid had already been approved – are also asking for compensation from the government.

Wigan Borough Council is writing to  Gove about the discrepancy.

Today the education secretary is facing fresh questions in the House of Commons over his judgment after it emerged he ignored warnings from his senior officials and “rushed out” an error-strewn list of more than 700 axed school building projects.

Gove’s plight was compounded when further mistakes emerged during the week as the government published three more lists containing more errors.

The future of the Partnerships for Schools quango led by Tim Byles, which is in charge of delivering the BSF programme, is also in doubt.

This weekend Gove vowed to “continue to invest in school buildings” despite axing Labour’s £55bn rebuilding programme.

Writing in the Sunday Express, he said: “We will of course continue to invest in school buildings and hope to help people in all those areas who feel disappointed now.

“We will make sure there are more places for primary pupils and help schools in need of serious repair.”

But it has emerged that Gove’s review of school building is unlikely to come up with any clear recommendations on how to upgrade schools before the year is out.

Contractors have also been told that Academy projects, which for the time being have been spared the axe pending a detailed review, will be individually assessed over coming months, leaving many contractors in limbo over the future of their projects.

Schools schemes claimed to have reached financial close

Contractor Balfour Beatty

  • Bolton Muslim Girls School
  • Ladybridge High School
  • Little Lever Specialist Language College
  • Rumworth Special School
  • Sharples School
  • Smithills
  • Westhoughton High
  • Kearsley Academy

Contractor Laing O’Rourke/Hochtief

  • Bedford High School
  • Hindley High School
  • Lowton/Golborne
  • Westleigh High School
  • New 14-19 centre

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