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Councils in court challenge over #163;148m lost to academies

A group of local authorities is staging a legal challenge against the Government over cuts to their budgets to pay for the expansion of the academies programme.

The 23 councils are claiming that the combined #163;148 million reduction in their budgets used to fund the expansion of the academies programme breaches government rules.

The town halls are hoping to force a judicial review of ministers' actions, as they believe it is against government guidelines, called the New Burdens Rules, which were brought in by Labour.

Academies are funded directly by the Government and the councils believe the money that is being deducted from their budgets to be given to the new academy schools should be accurately calculated.

Emily Heard, of solicitors Bevan Brittan, who is acting on behalf of the local authorities, believes it should be made clear by the Government where the "actual savings are made" by academies buying in their own services.

"The authorities are saying that their grant has been reduced by #163;148 million, and that this reduction is in connection with the services that are being transferred to academies," Ms Heard said.

"Local authorities argue that this reduction has to be properly calculated with reference to the actual savings that are made by transferring the respective services rather than by the cost to academies who will be providing the services."

If accepted, the case will be the second judicial review made against the Government. Earlier this year, the High Court asked education secretary Michael Gove to look again at his decision to scrap funding for the secondary school rebuilding programme, Building Schools for the Future (BSF).

Ms Heard, who also acted on behalf of the group of councils in the BSF case, said the legal papers would be sent to communities secretary Eric Pickles, although Mr Gove will be listed as an interested party. Mr Pickles has 21 days to contest the claim.

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