School savings penalise pupils

BRINGING the public finances back towards parity was always going to be a painful process. Yet few people realised it was going to be this painful – with another round of cuts yesterday, less than two weeks after George Osborne's austerity Budget.

The coalition Government had to act swiftly to protect Britain's credit worthiness. It also knows that it can blame unpopular decisions on the previous administration – a political advantage that will diminish with time.

Yet it also has a duty to govern in the public interest, and it is difficult to see how punishing those pupils who have the misfortune to be taught in antiquated school buildings is going to help these

youngsters in the longer-term.

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They're not to blame for the parlous state of the public finances. However, they are the very people who will suffer most of all if Education Secretary Michael Gove's draconian approach creates a gulf between modernised schools – and those that will now have to wait many more years for long-overdue improvements.

This is particularly troubling here in Yorkshire where around 1bn was due to be spent under the Building Schools for the Future programme. Nearly 100 schemes locally are on hold because Mr Gove perceived the programme to be too bureaucratic.

Yet, while the administration costs were scandalously high, this investment was crucial – and still is – to improving standards in a region which already finds itself at the foot of national league tables.

Given that education is supposedly one of the coalition's priorities, there may be merit in the idea – floated today by the Local Government Association – that town halls should be given greater autonomy rather than school-building plans, for example, being determined in Whitehall.

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The LGA, headed by Dame Margaret Eaton, the former leader of Bradford Council, believes 100bn could be saved over five years if public money was no longer wasted on "a plethora of funding streams, accountability regimes, ring-fenced budgets, quangos and funding bodies".

Tackling this issue would certainly be more advantageous than denying children state-of-the-art school buildings – or local councillors having to spend every last penny keeping afloat the Scarborough Spa project.