Tories will savage building renewal

20th November 2009 at 00:00
`Wasteful' programme to rebuild secondaries must be cut back in `age of austerity', says the Conservative shadow minister

The Conservatives have issued their strongest signal yet that they aim to severely pare back the pound;55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme if they win next year's general election.

Speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies earlier this month, shadow schools secretary Michael Gove called for an end to spending "waste" and pointed the finger at the Government's renewal programme for secondary schools.

Both Mr Gove and Tory leader David Cameron have outlined the need for voters to prepare for an "age of austerity", but the education spokesman has made it clearer than ever before that he sees the BSF initiative as an area where significant savings can be made.

He said the public sector must look to the example set by commercial organisations and eliminate the waste when it comes to the associated capital costs.

"We need to apply that same (private-sector) spirit not just to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, but also to those who spend its money, such as the giant quango Partnerships for Schools, which lavishes billions on school building programmes but has actually built few schools," he said.

"Millions of pounds are wasted on consultants, procurement processes and bureaucratic hoop-jumping when that money should be in the classroom. The cost of a single square foot of a new school built under this Government's current bureaucratic regime dwarfs the costs incurred by almost any building in the private sector."

The British Council for School Environments, a charity focusing on improving school buildings, said Mr Gove was right to point out the extent of the waste in BSF.

Ty Goddard, chief executive of the BCSE, said: "In lean times, we need lean organisations with the ability to deliver, inspire and involve.

"This massive school investment does not have to come with waste, duplication or making people jump through hoops."

A source within the BSF programme said schools are often more expensive to build than private buildings, particularly due to special requirements such as acoustics and other specifications that school pupils may need.

The source added that over the past year there has been a 30 per cent cost reduction in building academies, from pound;30-35 million down to pound;20-23 million.

"A reduction of that size in such a short period of time is not something to be sniffed at," the source said.

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