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BSF challenge reaches High Court

A legal challenge against the government’s decision to axe the £55 billion ‘BSF’ secondary school rebuilding programme is set to kick off in the High Court this week

Six English councils have urged the High Court to rule that the decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was taken incorrectly.

Education secretary Michael Gove abolished the scheme in July, cancelling more than 700 schools rebuilding projects.

The decision provoked uproar from local councils, unions and Labour politicians, who warned it was a ‘tragedy’ and would have a catastrophic effect on pupils.

In October, several councils announced they would be taking action against the move.

The authorities involved in this week’s challenge, which begins on Tuesday, are Waltham Forest Council, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Kent County Council and Newham Council.

Waltham Forest Council Leader, Councillor Chris Robbins, said: ‘We have significant levels of deprivation in our borough and [BSF] was a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise the aspirations of our entire population.

‘That chance has been snatched away from future generations and will have a devastating impact for years to come.

‘We stand to lose £275 million of investment. Because the government wouldn’t sit down amicably and explain their decision to us, this judicial review is the only avenue left open so with some regret that is the path we have followed.’

Under Labour’s £55 billion BSF scheme every secondary school in England was due to be rebuilt or refurbished.

But it was among the first education schemes to be cut by the coalition government, with Gove saying the programme had been beset by ‘massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy’.

Following the move, the education secretary came under fire after it emerged that the initial list of affected schemes was strewn with errors.

The mistakes meant several schools which believed they would be able to go ahead with their building projects had their hopes dashed.

The hearing is due to last a week.

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