Simon Hughes, Lib Dem deputy leader, distances party from education secretary’s decision to axe 700 school projects

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, has distanced his party from education secretary Michael Gove over the decision to cancel 700 projects under the Building Schools for the Future programme.

According to a report in the Guardian, Hughes said he was not entirely comfortable with the handling of the announcement, adding it would be “a nonsense” to build the new free schools being proposed using cash that could have improved existing buildings.

Gove outlined last week which school projects would be continued and which reviewed or cancelled. However, he was later forced to apologise after it emerged that several schools originally led to believe their plans had evaded the axe were actually among the 700 cancelled schemes.

Gove has agreed to meet Lib Dem councillors concerned by his announcement, and the issue is likely to be raised at a Liberal Democrat meeting of its MPs organised by Nick Clegg, the party’s leader and the coalition deputy prime minister.

Gove is due to answer questions in the Commons today on the cancellation of projects amid reports that the government is facing further protests from backbench Tory MPs angry that their local school programme has been frozen.

Ed Balls, the shadow education secretary, has also written to Gove to ask him whether he had at any point taken advice from advisors at Partnerships for Schools, which suggested consulting local authorities before publishing the lists of schools due for closure.