Michael Gove today cancelled Labour’s school building programme, suspending projects for 715 new schools as part of the coalition’s latest tranche of spending cuts, which also saw funding culled for new housing projects, school swimming pools and eco-towns.
A report in Monday’s Guardian, gave testimony to the true level of valued that the Coalition place on fairness and education. That value is none! The ‘offer’ to all UK schools to buy their way out of the system and become Academies was carefully laid down prior to the announcement of this cut to spending on education. This, in no way exonerates them from this shocking act of Thatcherism. The cancellation of 715 school building projects has been determined the best way to ‘ease the deficit’ but more spending cuts are yet to be announced.
The coalition government took its axe to a further £1.5bn in spending commitments, cutting £1bn from the schools budget and millions from the business department, communities and local government and the Home Office.
The education secretary has also announced that the £55bn, 20 year Schools for the Future project will be scrapped. It is no wonder then that they had to use the Academies bill beforehand in order to mask the real issue: that the coalition were going to cease investment in the education of our children by as much as they could get away with. While VAT rises, and the banks pay back the float they were loaned as slowly as they can, and MPs refuse to pay back the money they stole on ludicrous expenses claims that would have gotten anyone else fired, who will really pay back this deficit we hear so much about? It won’t be us paying it back. The withdrawal of education funding and schools being virtually forced into choosing academy status means that the people who will be paying for this will be our children. Michael Gove told the Commons that the scheme had been hit by “massive over-spends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy”.
“”He said: “There are some councils which entered the process six years ago which have only just started building new schools. Another project starting this year is three years behind schedule.
“By contrast, Hong Kong international airport, which was built on a barren rock in the South China Sea and can process 50 million passenger movements every year, took just six years to build — from start to finish.””
He compared the building of a single airport with the plans for building of over 1000 schools! Is this guy for real? Having worked in the building industry myself for several years (I was an administrator for a builder’s merchant for seven years), I at least have some idea about the limitations to even a single building project besides the countless surveys that must be carried out and plans approved. The “bureaucracy” is the administration needed to manage the task. THE WEATHER can halt building for days, and the list goes on. Delays happen on any building project for numerous reasons.
“Ed Balls, the shadow schools secretary, said: “Today is a black day for our country’s schools, it is a damning indictment of this new Tory/Liberal coalition’s priorities and a shameful statement from this new secretary of state.”
The Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, claims to have found £154bn of spending commitments made in the ‘dying days of Labour‘. These would apparently been impossible without either additional borrowing or under-spending in other areas. The departments involved have been instructed to reduce their spending.
The Department for Business, Innovations and Skills, has been ordered to find £265m in savings. These have been identified as loans to the Forgemasters of Sheffield steel works and the automotive industry (or what is left of it) Which means our industry will further suffer and add more strain to the public purse through job losses. The Communities and Local Government Department have announced that £220m, for new housing projects, will no longer be going ahead but gave no further details. Meanwhile the Home Office must find £55m.
The Department for Education will be axing £169m of capital expenditure projects and £831m will be saved on greater financial control by
- Clawing back ‘under-spends’ on existing school projects.
- Non-allocation of £110m contingency fund.
- Scrapping £24m on co-location of health and social services on school sites.
- Scrapping £15m on public swimming pools.
- Scrapping £2.5m school contribution to Eco-Towns Initiative.
- Scrapping £50m Harnessing Technology Grant to improve IT in schools.
- Scrapping £50m on improved IT system for social services.
- Scrapping £13m for Youth Capital Fund to provide out of school activities for teenagers.
They have given us neither figure nor time-scale for the cuts planned for the Sure Start budget. Instead they have given an entirely non-committal briefing mentioning ‘managing down’ the expenditure on Sure Start, Early Days, and Childcare Grant and again been waxing lyrical about ‘discussions’ while giving no indication as to either what these involve or what their true intentions are. This is contrary to a statement made on the 7th June 2010 by Gove, assuring us that NO cuts would be made to Sure Start funding.
A Whitehall source said the whole process of deciding how much of the Building Schools for the Future programme would be scrapped had been “bloody chaos”, and that the weeks of uncertainty had cost schools, local authorities and the construction industry time and money in preparing for schemes which have now been scrapped.
Mr Alexander has since decried the spending commitments on education as unnecessary.