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Schools building programme facing threat from spending cuts

Schools projects were this week facing the axe as the new coalition government prepared to make massive spending cuts.

The Department for Education refused to make firm commitments to the previous government’s building schools for the future (BSF) programme.

It said it has “not yet made a decision on BSF funding or any other capital programmes”, adding that “ministers will shortly be considering their spending priorities, which will take into account all areas of spending including schools”.

Hartlepool Borough Council said it has recently been contacted by Partnerships for Schools, the government body responsible for BSF, to “check its understanding” of Hartlepool’s progress in delivering its £95M BSF programme to rebuild and replace six schools. The spokesman said the council had made “very substantial progress”.

Hartlepool has recently swung to a Labour majority. “We are continuing to progress our BSF plans as normal,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Ealing Borough Council – in which Labour gained 17 seats and a new majority – said the council did not expect the local election results to affect its £300M BSF programme as “the project had cross-party support”.

Other local government projects could also be under threat although individual local authorities were optimistic that they would be unaffected.

A Sheffield City Council spokesman said it was too early to know how its £674.1M highway maintenance PFI project could be affected by spending cuts. “We’ve not heard anything; the project’s still moving very well,” she said.

Gosport Council leader Mark Hook said his council’s swing to a Conservative majority will not affect the council’s plan to build a new leisure centre. “I anticipate having it up and running before the Olympics in 2012,” he said. 

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