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BSF axe prompts council action

Two councils have launched legal action to fight Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to axe Labour’s £55bn school building programme.

Nottingham City Council revealed it is prepared to take “whatever actions are necessary” to challenge Gove’s decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative, which has led to the cancellation of plans to refurbish two schools in the city.

Meanwhile, Waltham Forest Council, in north-east London, also launched legal proceedings, admitting the decision to halt the scheme would have a “catastrophic effect” on pupils.

David Mellen, Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “Our decision to take legal proceedings demonstrates our commitment to taking whatever actions are necessary to overturn the decision.”

Mellen revealed the council would have preferred to negotiate a solution but a wall of silence had met his request to meet Gove, while a petition of more than 5,000 signatures had called for the council to take action.

Nottingham City Council has requested permission at the Leeds Administrative Court to apply for a judicial review of Gove’s decision to stop funding for Top Valley and Trinity schools and Top Valley Learning Centre.

The council claims the July decision, which has resulted in the cancellation of more than 700 projects at schools across the country, was contrary to the council’s legitimate expectation that the funding would be forthcoming after the outline business case for the three schemes was approved in February.

The Labour-led council also claims the decision was irrational in arbitrarily using 1 January this year as a cut-off date for stopping funding of BSF projects. It requests the court overturn the Government’s decision in order to ensure the schemes receive the funding expected.

A council spokesman admitted Nottingham City Council is trying to minimise the cost of the legal proceedings by taking joint action with Luton Borough Council, which also had BSF projects cancelled.

Labour-led Waltham Forest Council revealed it has spent approximately £17M on BSF projects and its cancellation is devastating for thousands of pupils learning in outdated and unsuitable classrooms.

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