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Councils launch legal challenge against BSF cuts

A pair of councils has launched legal action against the coalition government’s decision to withdraw funding for their Building Schools for the Future schemes.

Nottingham City Council and Luton Borough Council lodged papers in the Leeds Administrative Court requesting permission to apply for a judicial review of the move.

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

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.

Councillor David Mellen said: “The council has explored a number of options in order to secure funding to carry out the planned remodelling of Top Valley and Trinity schools, which have been stopped.

“We have sought counsel’s advice on whether to take legal action to resolve this dispute and our decision to push ahead with legal proceedings has not been taken lightly. We would have much preferred a negotiated solution however I have not received a response to my request to meet with Mr Gove.”

The council’s claim requests that the court quash the decision, declares that these schools are unaffected and that the government provides the funding that was promised.