Gove accuses Balls of spending 'evasion'

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Schools shadow claims minister is refusing to reveal cuts in bid to scupper Tory poll chances

The conservatives have accused Schools Secretary Ed Balls of keeping them in the dark over his department's spending plans.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove claimed that his counterpart was making it "impossible" for his party to draw up plans for savings to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) budget.

Mr Gove accused his opposite number of deliberately "evading" the issue of potential cuts because he did not want to jeopardise his party's chances in the upcoming election.

Mr Balls has trumpeted the fact that he secured an 0.7 per cent "real terms" rise in schools spending from Chancellor Alistair Darling in the pre-Budget report last month.

But he has been vague over details of the spending plans, including the likely fate of money currently allocated to quangos, such as the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which receives DCSF funding.

Mr Gove said: "The Chancellor has made clear that significant savings are necessary because the public finances are in such a mess. But Ed Balls is avoiding setting out any clear spending plans on education because he doesn't want the political backlash for making cuts.

"His approach of evasion is just not good enough. It's impossible for anyone to work out how we can make the savings necessary when he won't publish any official departmental figures."

The attack came last week after the pair had gone head-to-head in a Commons debate over the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

Mr Gove taunted the Schools Secretary, claiming the bill would be remembered as his "monument" - a reminder of his tenure as schools secretary.

"(Lord) Balfour's monument was the Education Act 1902, which established a universal system of local education provision. Rab Butler's monument was the Education Act 1944, which established universal free secondary provision.

"Lord Baker of Dorking's monument was the Education Reform Act 1988 . I suspect that the (Children, Schools and Families) Bill, whether it is passed or not, will end up being the secretary of state's monument," he said.

Responding to the claims over funding, Mr Balls said: "What I said was that all the money that goes directly to schools is rising in real terms. The money that is going to agencies has not at this point been settled. So the money that is going to the TDA has not been settled - that is absolutely clear. But the money going to schools will rise this year, next year and the year after if this Government are re-elected, whereas it will be cut from next April if the honourable Gentleman's (Mr Gove) party is elected."

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