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Fourth council launches legal challenge against BSF cuts

A fourth council has mounted a legal challenge over the Government’s decision to withdraw funding for its Building Schools for the Future scheme.

Labour-run Sandwell Council in the West Midlands said it is seeking judicial review over the move that stopped nine projects in the area that Interserve was due to deliver.

In a statement, the local authority called Mr Gove’s decision “unfair” because its BSF schemes were ready to proceed before 1 January, but decided “in good faith” to stick to a timetable imposed by Partnerships for Schools quango running the programme.

Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said: “We are taking legal action because the government’s decision is irrational, unfair and shortsighted.”

Education secretary Michael Gove scrapped the £55bn BSF scheme in July, leaving more than 700 school projects on the scrapheap.

Nottingham City Council, Luton Borough Council and Waltham Forest Council announced on Monday that they are starting legal challenges to win back the funding they were expecting.

In Nottingham, Top Valley School, Top Valley Learning Centre and Trinity School were due to benefit from the BSF programme, which Carillion was contracted to deliver.

Luton Borough Council also saw some projects - due to be delivered by Wates - stopped by the announcement.

Nottingham City Council claims Mr Gove’s decision was contrary to the council’s legitimate expectation that the funding would be forthcoming. The outline business case for the three schemes had been approved in February 2010.

Under BSF, schools were due to be rebuilt or refurbished on a phased basis. Mr Gove’s announcement meant all phases that had reached financial close were safe, but follow-up waves that had reached financial close in 2010 were doomed.

Nottingham Council claims the decision was irrational in arbitrarily using 1 January 2010 as a cut-off date.