Balls slams decision to axe Suffolk schools projects

Labour leadership hopeful calls decision `hammerblow’

LABOUR leadership hopeful Ed Balls has dubbed the decision to axe the Building Schools for the Future as “diabolical” and “unfair” to teachers, parents, and pupils.

Mr Balls was the architect of the �50billion programme which the new coalition government has decided to axe.

“It was a black day for our schools when Education Secretary Michael Gove cancelled the scheme, which would have see more than 700 new build or refurbished schools across England,” said Mr Balls, who was Education Secretary in Gordon Brown’s government.

He denied the programme had been uncosted by Labour, which made it inevitable that it would be a prime target for the axe as the coalition set about filling the black hole in the economy it inherited from the Brown government.

“Allegations have been made by the Conservatives that are untrue and were refuted by the Permanent Secretary at the education department last night.

“All the money was there. We made the commitment and it was agreed by the Treasury that BSF would go ahead.

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“It was a Labour promise and it is the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who have said it is not their priority.

“It is a hammer blow to schools right across the country,” said Mr Balls, who was in Ipswich, Great Cornard and Colchester campaigning for the Labour leadership election.

“Economically, it is ridiculous. Allegations that the money was not there are untrue.

“In our manifesto we said we would keep all our promises on Building Schools for the Future. I had agreed that with Labour’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling.

“It was the right priority for the country and Labour would have kept its promise.”

Among the schemes jettisoned by Mr Gove are the rebuilding of Chantry high school in Ipswich and Westbourne sports college in the borough.

Projects in Colchester and Haverhill have also been abandoned and it is unlikely that the completion of the abolition of middle schools in Suffolk will be completed before the end of the decade./

The two Tory MPs for Ipswich promised to try to help their schools.

Ben Gummer, whose Ipswich constituency includes Chantry and Holywells which is still under consideration as an academy school, was very unhappy.

He said: “I am very angry – angry that the previous government had created such a bureaucratic nightmare for schools seeking to rebuild themselves.

“This has meant that schools like Chantry have had to spend a lot of time, energy, and money to get to a position when the funding was always looking unclear.

“I have already written to Michael Gove about the situation in Ipswich and I shall be trying to see what I can do to help the schools in future.”

Dr Dan Poulter, whose Suffolk Central and North Ipswich constituency includes Westbourne school, also felt the previous government was to blame.

“It was making promises that were always going to be unaffordable. I know it is very disappointing for the schools – but education is about more than bricks and mortar and I will do all I can to help them raise the standard of education.”