Young spoke at BSEC of the difficulty of underwriting leases on buildings for free schools

The government risks damaging the chances of free schools being able to find suitable accommodation by making it difficult to underwrite leases on buildings, according to Toby Young.

Young, a journalist and author, who is trying to establish his own free school in West London, said that school groups were struggling to lease properties because the trusts that have been set up to run them have no credit history.

Speaking at the BSEC conference last week, Young said: “I don’t think the government has firmly decided not to underwrite free school leases - that will be down to the Sebastian James review - but I suspect they won’t.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education this week denied it will refuse to underwrite leases, but it is thought the terms insisted upon by the department may not be acceptable to all landlords.

The spokesperson said: “The Department is prepared to underwrite leases where needed to help secure suitable free school sites. The exact terms and conditions is matter for negotiation.”

It is thought the department is working to prepare template leases, albeit ones limited by time or size.

Young said he originally wanted to lease a property for the West London Free School, but is now in talks to buy Palingswick House from Hammersmith and Fulham council.

He said: “Deciding not to enter into a partnership with an established education provider made leasing a building more difficult.”

His bid to buy Palingswick is controversial, as it currently houses charities and community groups.