BSF schemes in the balance as Kier seals deal

21 May 2010

Building Schools for the Future projects approved for funding as far back as July 2009 could be in doubt as the new coalition government “reprioritises” all BSF pipeline projects, according to a report in Building

The report says that the Department for Education review is to carry out a thorough review of projects, which goes beyond the review of capital spending commitments announced by George Osborne earlier this week.

The review, it is understood, will assess where projects can be stopped, and look at criteria for reprioritising them. Building calculates that projects worth £2bn have been allocated funding since last July.

Decisions are likely to be made on the basis of the condition of the schools' existing buildings, rather than “educational transformation”. The latter policy had prioritised schools in deprived areas. 

Meanwhile, six schemes that embarked on the procurement process in March look immediately vulnerable to cuts, Construction News reported. The six local authorities given approval to enter the scheme just ahead of the election were Buckinghamshire (initially worth £80m), Cornwall (£69m), Gateshead (£80m), Lincolnshire (£70m), Oxfordshire (£62m) and Sutton (£56m). 

However, despite the huge uncertainty over the future of the £55 billion BSF programme, Kier, as part of the Equitix consortium, has reached financial close on two schools in Cambridgeshire worth £44.4 million, Building and Construction News reported.

New Tory education secretary Michael Gove is known to be sceptical about the benefits of the programme. Mr Gove has been quoted as saying: “One of the problems with [BSF] is that the money doesn’t go to the schools - it goes to bureaucrats, architects and construction companies. That is wrong. The money should be at the front line, with the schools and the local authorities that support the schools.”

A senior contractor told Construction News: “My reaction to Michael Gove is one of great trepidation. Some of the statements we have seen from him and also from schools minister Nick Gibb have been concerning.”

Despite all the speculation, the Government has insisted that no decisions have yet been taken on the future of BSF. A spokesman said: “The Department for Education has not announced a review of Building Schools for the Future funding.

“However, the Government is committed to a full comprehensive spending review in the autumn and ministers will shortly be considering their spending priorities, which will take into account all areas of spending including school capital.

“No decisions have currently been taken on BSF or other capital programmes.”

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