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High Court to rule on BSF challenge

The High Court rules today on the legality of the Government’s decision to scrap school building projects in different parts of the country.

The axe fell in July when Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was drastically curtailed after the Coalition took power.

BSF was among the first education schemes to be cut back by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Justice Holman, sitting in London, is being asked by six local councils to grant court orders aimed at forcing Mr Gove to reconsider axing school projects in their areas.

Under the BSF, every secondary school in England was due to be rebuilt or refurbished over a 15-20 year period at an estimated cost of £55bn.

Gove said the programme had been beset by “massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy”.

The axe fell on projects for more than 700 schools, provoking uproar from councils, unions and Labour politicians, who warned it was a tragedy and would have a catastrophic effect on pupils.

At the High Court, the six councils − Waltham Forest Council, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Kent County Council and Newham Council − sought judicial review.

Their lawyers argued at a recent hearing that the scrapping of building, re-building and refurbishing projects in their areas was arbitrary and legally flawed and failed to take account of the merits of individual schemes.

They accused the Education Secretary of failing to consult properly, not giving adequate reasons before stopping projects and breaching legitimate expectations that projects would be funded.

Lawyers for the Education Secretary argued that his decisions were not made lightly and were not open to legal challenge.

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