Aggrieved LAs ponder joint legal action over 'lost' BSF millions

27th August 2010 at 01:00

Local authorities that missed out on vast sums of school-rebuilding cash are joining forces to mount a legal challenge against the Government.

Last month, Education Secretary Michael Gove called a halt to the #163;55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, leaving dozens of councils unable to fund their school-building plans.

The decision means local authorities have also lost more than #163;200 million of public money they had spent preparing for the rebuilding projects.

A number of town halls threatened to take the Department for Education to court to recoup the money. They are now teaming up to build a more substantial case.

Sandwell Metropolital Borough Council, which was originally told its BSF projects would go ahead, is in talks with other local authorities to launch a judicial review.

Sandwell leader Councillor Darren Cooper said: "We are looking at pooling our resources and we will be holding a seminar in September where all of the authorities affected by BSF will be invited so that we can discuss an appropriate way forward."

Wigan Council, which lost #163;1.3 million of its own money preparing for its #163;257 million BSF programme, has said it is holding discussions with Salford City Council in a bid to spread the legal costs and add weight to its legal challenge.

A Wigan spokesperson said: "It is being discussed but no decision has been made. We are looking at pooling resources between the two councils."

Mr Gove announced that more than 700 school rebuilding projects would not go ahead. But he was forced to apologise to a number of council leaders after a raft of mistakes were found on no fewer than four lists of schools that were earmarked to miss out on BSF cash.

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