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BSF delays are damaging British industry, says CBI

Delays to the government’s £45 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme are ‘inflicting’ both short- and long-term damage to the economy, a Confederation of British Industry report has warned.

The business group also claimed that many local authorities are ‘unsure’ about BSF and that there has been ‘inadequate’ leadership of the programme.

The document, called More than Bricks and Mortar, said that BSF delays are ‘adding to the problems faced by the construction sector as the economy hits a slowdown’.

CBI director of public services Susan Anderson, said: ‘Moving BSF forward is essential as it will deliver real benefits in improving education standards and also help our construction industry weather current economic conditions.

‘We need to see a real drive from the government and an end to avoidable delays in the procurement process. BSF is well behind schedule but much faster progress could be made with the right political leadership. The money is already available - but we need to see action.

’It is no wonder that doubts are being expressed about the long-term future of BSF when it has been so slow at delivering thus far.’

CBI recommendations include:
• Taking decisive action to speed up the programme and bring it closer to its original timeplan;
• ensuring education goals are at the heart of BSF so the new schools are able to tackle Britain’s poor education performance;
• the Department for Children, Schools and Families promoting BSF to all local authorities;
• taking decisions over how individual projects are to be funded – for example under the private finance initiative – as early as possible;
• environmental sustainability requirements being part of all BSF contracts; and
• procurement processes being speeded up, with expertise shared between contracting authorities and Partnerships for Schools ensuring its guidance is up to the job.

Partnerships for Schools, the agency charged with delivering the BSF programme, has stated that the CBI’s report is old news, adding that BSF received a ‘positive’ end of year report.

PfS chief executive Tim Byles said: ‘The references to ‘delays’ in this report are a historical account. Early indications of the difference that BSF is making on the ground are also encouraging.

‘Independent research carried out for PfS by the NFER illustrates the positive impact that the new learning environment is having on students and teachers at the Bristol Brunel Academy – one of the first BSF schools to open.

'With a total of 35 BSF schools expected in this current financial year, I am confident that BSF will continue to build on these successes, resulting in a very real and positive difference for millions of students, teachers and communities up and down the country.'

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