The mood as Sandwell council and its fellow victims take the government to court today over the scrapping of the £55bn school building programme is not unlike that you’d expect if Crawley Town reach the FA Cup Final against Man Utd.
There is an immense amount of public and industry support for those local authorities who lost millions of pounds of promised funding, while others at a similar stage escaped the cuts with little more than a graze. But nobody – least of all legal commentators – expects them to walk away with much to celebrate.
It would be a brave judge that ruled against the Coalition’s right to decide where to spend its money, but, even more significantly, the point is simply that there is no more money to be had.
Difficult though it may be to stomach for those involved, even if the local authorities won their judicial review process, the reassessment of the government’s prioritisation of school projects that would be triggered would not mean any more cash to be shared around.
So even if they score a moral victory, those local authorities that have stood up to the government – Nottingham, Waltham Forest, Newham, Luton, Sandwell and Kent – are still likely to be left waiting in line for the 2012-13 budget.
But despite that uncomfortable truth, there is one very important outcome that this court case will have for all those schemes nationwide which have been scrapped, regardless of the overall verdict.
Education mandarins are currently locked in talks over the prioritisation of future schools schemes as part of the Sebastian James Review.
So the scrutiny that will be heaped on the plight of these six councils over the coming days will be an extremely ferocious reminder to the review team, and Michael Gove, that a repeat of the shambles surrounding the last announcement of winners and losers would be a final nail in the coffin for the credibility of the education department, at least as far as school building is concerned.
And that’s not a point that’s likely to escape their notice.