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Review of capital projects raises BSF questions

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Building Schools for the Future (BSF) projects worth billions of pounds were hanging in the balance this week as speculation mounted that the new government is planning radical changes to the £55bn programme.

The Department for Education insisted it had “not announced a review” of the programme to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England, but conceded that its comprehensive spending review would include capital projects.

Consultants told LGC that some changes were inevitable, not least a reduction in funding to help pay for the Swedish-style “free schools” promised by new schools secretary Michael Gove in the election campaign.

Directly funding school capital programmes to cut down on the cost of the procurement process was seen as one possible option for the new government.

One children’s services specialist told LGC his authority was working on the basis that councils that had selected a preferred partner for their projects would probably be allowed to continue. However, 52 authorities that have joined the programme have not yet reached that stage.

Paul Martin, chief executive of Sutton LBC - one of the seven councils to join BSF this year - said his authority had already spent about £500,000 on developing its programme, but accepted that the new government would want to review its spending.

“What we’re hoping is that there’ll be an opportunity to see how we can secure investment into those particular schools that have already been identified,” he said.

Cambridgeshire CC closed its £110m BSF partnership with Equitix, in what was likely to be one of the last such deals before the government clarifies the future of the programme.

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