Education Secretary Michael Gove must play no part in a review of cancelled school building projects ordered by a High Court judge, Labour has said
The Education Secretary was told he should reconsider his decision to scrap the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme in six local authorities after Justice Holman last week ruled that Gove had unlawfully failed to consult them before imposing the cuts.
Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said it was a ‘damning verdict’ which raised doubts about his ‘competence and judgment’.
He said Gove ‘should now remove himself from any further part in this decision’.
The Education Secretary, forced to answer an urgent question in the Commons following Friday’s High Court ruling, insisted he would continue to carry out the James Review in an ‘open minded’ way, claiming it had already found in the Government’s favour on several ‘substantive issues’.
Responding to the question from Labour’s John Cryer, Gove said: ‘It was, of course, deeply regrettable that any building projects had to be cancelled.
‘But the scale of the deficit we inherited meant cuts were inevitable and the inefficiency which characterised BSF schemes meant we needed a new approach.’
He said the six authorities had argued that the Government’s decision making had been ‘confused and irrational’ but the judge ‘makes clear the decisions I made were clear and rational’.
Gove said the judge ruled in favour of the six councils on ‘two procedural grounds’.
‘In essence his view is that my consultation with 14 local authorities in relation to 32 sample schools and a further 119 individual academy projects did not go far enough and I should have included the six claimants in my consultation.
‘He also judges that I should have had rigorous regard to equalities considerations in reaching my decision.
‘The judge has not ordered a reinstatement of funding for any BSF project. Nor has he ordered me to pay compensation to any of the claimants.’
The judge ruled that the Education Secretary must give each of the six authorities involved - Waltham Forest Council, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Kent County Council and Newham Council - an ‘opportunity to make representations’.
Gove must then review the decision in those areas ‘with an open mind’.
He added: ‘The judge has made clear that the final decision on any given school project still rests with me and that I may save all, some, a few or none.
‘He concluded by ‘saying no one should gain false hope from this decision’.