Education Secretary Michael Gove will come up against rising anger in the Commons today about his decision to axe Labour’s £55bn school building programme.
Amid growing discontent from within his own party, Mr Gove will be grilled by Tory MP Philip Davies about the impact on schools in his constituency. Other MPs are certain to weigh in.
A number of Tory backbenchers were joined by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes yesterday in expressing concerns about the cancellation of hundreds of school building projects.
Shadow education secretary Ed Balls is also challenging Mr Gove about allegations he ignored the advice of officials in publishing an error-strewn list of affected schools.
The Department for Education flatly rejected the claim but Mr Balls wrote to Mr Gove asking him to “clarify” the situation.
The political storm began when Mr Gove announced the end of Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme last week.
Anger deepened when it then emerged that a list of 715 supposedly affected projects was strewn with errors, so that many schools thought they had escaped the axe only to learn otherwise later. Mr Gove was forced to apologise to the Commons.
In his letter, Mr Balls wrote: “I urge you to withdraw all these error-strewn lists and think again.
“Building Schools for the Future should continue to be a priority for capital expenditure in the Department for Education, not free schools.”
Mr Hughes, who is outside the Government but an influential figure on the Lib Dem benches, sent a warning to Mr Gove that it would be “nonsense” to spend money on flagship new free schools if local people preferred to refurbish existing buildings.
He told BBC1’s Politics Show: “It would be a nonsense to take money that could be used for improving existing schools to create new schools where, on the ground, the will of the local community is for the existing schools to continue.”