Fears BSF halted within weeks

4 June 2010

The government is likely to announce a formal halt to the £55bn school building programme within weeks, Building reported.

Building claims that officials are preparing a formal announcement, amid growing pressure from contractors for clarity over the future of the scheme. It is understood that the Department for Education is likely to make an announcement alongside or before the Budget on 22 June.

However, in a separate report Construction News claimed that Prime Minister David Cameron had delivered his strongest statement yet in support of keeping the Building Schools for the Future.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin raised the issue of the BSF programme with four high schools in his constituency.

He asked: “Can the Prime Minister guarantee that that programme will be seen through to its completion, which would also help many of the construction workers in my constituency?”

Cameron replied that Dobbin should be relieved that the BSF scheme had avoided the £6bn of cuts announced last month.

“In terms of Building Schools for the Future, let me be clear: our plans-and our passion, when it comes to education are to ensure that new schools are provided so that we have real excellence, in the secondary sector in particular. That is what it is about. Building Schools for the Future is exactly what our plans involve,” Cameron said.

Currently officials are preparing to put all schemes that have not reached preferred bidder stage on hold, pending the outcome of a review of school building procurement.

The department is expected to bring in an external expert to lead its review, which will look at options for prioritising schemes and how a scaled-back scheme could be run.

It is understood that all projects that have received financial close and virtually all those at preferred bidder stage will progress as planned, although sources have warned there may be “some grey areas”.
Pressure on the government to be clear about the future of the scheme has been growing since the election, amid fears councils are wasting time and money proceeding with schemes that will not go ahead.

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