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Councils launch legal battle over BSF

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Nottingham City Council, Luton BC and Waltham Forest LBC have launched legal bids to challenge education secretary Michael Gove’s decision to scrap the £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

Mr Gove’s July announcement that some 700 school rebuilding programmes would no-longer go ahead provoked anger among many authorities.

Nottingham said it would be sharing the legal costs of requesting a judicial review with Luton.

It said that papers had now been lodged with Leeds Administrative Court requesting permission to apply for a judicial review of decision to stop funding for two city projects - Top Valley and Trinity schools.

The authority claims Michael Gove’s decision, was “contrary to the council’s legitimate expectation” that the funding would be forthcoming, given that the outline business case for the schemes had been approved in February 2010.

It also claims that the decision was irrational in arbitrarily using 1 January 2010 as a cut-off date for stopping funding of BSF projects.

David  Mellen (Lab), Nottingham’s children’s services lead member, said the authority had explored a number of options to get funding for the remodelling of both schools and had decided a Judicial Review was justified.

“We have sought counsel’s advice on whether to take legal action to resolve this dispute and our decision to push ahead with legal proceedings has not been taken lightly,” he said.

“We would have much preferred a negotiated solution however I have not received a response to my request to meet with Mr Gove.

“A petition of over 5,000 signatures has been handed in calling for the council to take action against the government’s decision to cancel funding for Top Valley and Trinity schools.

“Our decision to take legal proceedings demonstrates our commitment to taking whatever actions are necessary to over-turn the decision.”

The Council’s claim requests that the court quash the decision made on 5 July 2010 in respect of Top Valley School, Top Valley Learning Centre and Trinity School and declare that these three schemes are ‘unaffected’ and will continue to receive the funding that was promised.

A spokeswoman for Luton BC said the authority had only reluctantly begun legal proceedings and had joined forces with Nottingham to minimise the cost.

“We have no wish to engage in a legal challenge but the needs of local schools and young people must be our priority,” she said.

“The two schools particularly affected are Cardinal Newman and Stopsley, at a combined cost of £45m.” 


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