Thursday, July 08, 2010

A refusal to mourn the death of Building Schools for the Future

Michael Gove made an awful mess of the announcement that some the construction of some new schools under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme would not go ahead, but I find it hard to get indignant about the substance of his decision.

And the fact that some of the less bright Tory MPs are up in arms does nothing to convince me I am wrong.

Private Eye has long been a convincing critic of this programme. Its current issue says that Gove's department
has finally acknowledged what the Eye has been saying for several years: that BSF is far too complicated and costly for its own good.
Deals signed under the programme since 2005, along with other PFI schools, already cost the education budget more than £700m a year (enough to run 70 large secondary schools), and that's without the tens of millions in fees charged by consultants.
The Eye goes on to say that this "£700m annual millstone" will mean that thousands of schools will forgo crucial maintenance while the few to have benefited from BSF "enjoy their shiny overpriced facilities".

In a sane world decisions about new schools would be taken by city and county councils. That it is now a matter for central government is a symptom of the vast overcentralisation of Britain.

BSF also serves as a symbol for Gordon Brown's love of overcomplicated and apparently ingenious (but actually rather stupid) methods of financing public works.

Add into this Labour's tendency to value buildings over human values (step forward Polly Toynbee) and it is no wonder that BSF has produced such a toxic brew.

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