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Conservative 'backtrack on localism'

The Tories have been accused of ‘back-pedalling’ on localism following their newly unveiled schools policy

The Conservatives yesterday announced they would make schools building schemes be considered major infrastructure projects, effectively taking control of the decision-making process out of the hands of local government.

A statement from the party said: ‘Changing planning law is vital to ensure that groups of parents, charities and other organisations can easily set up new independent state schools.’

Shadow planning minister Bob Neill told the BBC: ‘That’s our national policy and naturally therefore we, within the planning side of things, want to facilitate that approach. And then the best thing is to look sensibly at what the details are to be able to help communities and parents who want to do that, to achieve that.’

Liberal Democrat shadow schools secretary David Laws told Public Service: ‘This shows that the Conservative commitment to “localism” is only skin deep. David Cameron keeps on pledging an end to the era of “Whitehall knows best government”, but it’s now clear that the Tories would simply swap one form of central diktat with another.’

The conservative announcement is thought to have been timed to coincide with delayed unveiling of the party’s planning policy paper which was due on Monday.

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