No plans to challenge government over BSF

Work underway on the new look entrance at Dyke House Sports and Techology College
Work underway on the new look entrance at Dyke House Sports and Techology College

COUNCIL chiefs say they will not challenge the Government’s decision to pull millions in funding to rebuild secondary schools in Hartlepool.

The stance by Hartlepool Borough Council comes despite a top judge’s ruling that the Government minister responsible acted “unlawfully” by axing the £55bn scheme in six other local authorities without consulting them.

Multi-million pound plans to revamp Hartlepool’s secondary schools were scrapped when the national Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was cut by the new Government.

Manor College of Technology, Catcote School and Business Enterprise College, High Tunstall School of Science and English Martyrs School lost their funding.

The 12.4m remodel of Dyke House Sports and Technology College, in Mapleton Road, was the only one to escape the axe.

The 8.84m allocated for ICT upgrades to all of Hartlepool’s secondary schools was also secured.

But on Friday, a High Court judge ruled that Education Secretary Michael Gove had acted unlawfully in a case brought by six local councils in other parts of the country and must reconsider his decision.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who serves as a shadow education minister, called into question Mr Gove’s competency and said he should apologise.

The ruling potentially opens the door for other councils hit by spending cuts to seek a judicial review.

But Hartlepool Borough Council says it has no plans to launch a challenge.

A spokesman said: “The council decided against challenging the Government’s decision because at the time our focus was on trying to secure the funding for Dyke House and ICT improvements.

“This funding of £21.5m was subsequently awarded.

“Clearly, we were very disappointed to lose BSF funding for the other schools but we’ll continue to do everything we can to secure investment in the future.”

Mr Justice Holman said in five of the cases Mr Gove’s failure was “so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”.

The High Court battle was brought by Waltham Forest Council, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Kent County Council and Newham Council.

But the judge said he believed it was “far too late” for others to seek a challenge adding “fortune has favoured the brave”.

Mr Wright said: “I’ve never heard a judge refer to an abuse of power by a secretary of state before.

“I think he needs to apologise to Parliament.

“The Building Schools for the Future would have provided fantastic opportunities for the children as well as building firms in Hartlepool so I hope it does make him look again as the judgement recommends so we can get the state-of-the-art schools that Hartlepool deserves.”