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Tories and Labour accuse each other over building scheme future

A political spat broke out this week over the future of the vast #163;55 billion school rebuilding programme after the Government announced an additional #163;1 billion for the project.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, used the announcement to demand the Conservatives "come clean" over their plans for the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative.

Mr Balls said that while the Labour Government is promising to invest in the school estate, he said parents would be "shocked" to hear of the Conservatives' plans to cut #163;4.5 billion from the programme, resulting in 360 schools losing out on investment.

"It's time for David Cameron to come clean to teachers, parents and pupils across the country on which new school buildings they would axe," he said. "Where are the 360 schools that will no longer be rebuilt and get the investment they have been waiting for?"

Mr Balls said the Conservatives plan to change planning laws to enable new schools to be opened "in old office blocks or pre-fabricated buildings".

He added: "Parents want value for money from public funds, but they will be shocked to hear about these Tory plans for schools. They do not want to go back to the bad old days when school buildings were left to rot under the last Tory government - a legacy that our sustained investment in school buildings is consigning to the history books."

But the Conservatives labelled the Schools Secretary as acting "dishonestly", claiming he needs to spell out his own party's plans for BSF after the Government outlined plans to cut back capital funding in April's Budget.

A spokesman said: "It's time for Ed Balls to explain how the plans in the Budget to slash capital funding by half by 2014 will affect schools. It is dishonest for him to carry on without letting everyone know where these cuts will fall."

The Tories have made clear that significant savings could be made from the programme, particularly by eliminating the "waste" when it comes to the associated capital costs, but not to the detriment of school buildings.

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