On 11 February, Mr Justice Holman seemingly handed down a victory for six “brave” local authorities that had challenged the legitimacy of Michael Gove’s decision to scrap the BSF programme and cancel funding for schools projects in their areas.
The Department for Education has taken comfort from the fact that the judge neither questioned Gove’s decision on grounds of irrationality, nor confirmed that any legitimate expectation had arisen that any of the projects would be funded.
Gove must now go back and consult with the local authorities on the effects of his options, and he must give due regard to his duties under equalities legislation. Can we expect much to change from this review? The judge stated “provided he discharges [his] duties, the final decision on any given school or project still rests with him. […] Nobody should gain false hope from this decision.”
Any hope for local authorities’ frozen BSF schemes will therefore depend on the result of the James Review.