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Sandwell joins BSF legal battle

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Sandwell MBC has become the latest authority to request a judicial review over the government’s decision to scrap the £55billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

The move follows similar action launched by Nottingham City Council in partnership with Luton BC, and a stand-alone bid by Waltham Forest LBC.

Sandwell was widely seen as the most-wronged authority following education secretary Michael Gove’s July announcement that the school rebuilding and refurbishment programme would be halted.

A list of projects set to continue wrongly suggested that the Black Country borough’s school-building plans would not be affected. It was subsequently revised.

Sandwell leader Darren Cooper (Lab) said the government’s decision was “irrational, unfair, and shortsighted”.

Cllr Cooper said the borough had been forced to delay progress with its schemes on the advice of the quango Partnerships for Schools, and that if it had ignored the advice it’s schemes would have been able to go ahead.

“Why did they chose 1 January as the cut off date? Was it just plucked out of the air? If we had been told that was the deadline we would have met it,” he said.

“Instead we did what we were told and spent money on preparatory work in good faith.

“Given the circumstances we believe we have no alternative but to mount a legal challenge.”

Last month the council’s deputy Conservative leader Elaine Costigan quit the party and joined the ruling Labour bloc over the government’s handling of BSF.

Cllr Costigan subsequently introduced shadow education secretary Ed Balls at the Labour Party Conference last week.

Her change of allegiance, and the decision of her father veteran Conservative councillor Bill Archer to stand down from his seat earlier this week has left the Conservatives with just nine seats on the authority.

 

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