Six local authorities join schools programme but fears persist over timetable after general election

The government has given the green light to BSF schemes worth around £420m today, as it allowed six more local authorities to join the school building programme.

Five authorities – Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Sutton – join the scheme for the first time, while Gateshead has been given approval for the second phase of its investment.

The authorities will be the last allowed into the programme before the general election. A future government could, however, still hold back or cancel the schemes, although the fact that they have been announced and endorsed by the Treasury makes it more politically difficult.

Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, said that meetings with the local authorities would take place over the coming weeks to discuss delivery mechanisms, including whether or not they should go through the academies framework.

Byles said: “We look forward to working with this latest cohort of local authorities to help deliver schools fit for the 21st century.”

Many commentators expect significant changes to the BSF programme if the Conservatives form the next government, and Byles acknowledged that the next group of local authorities to enter the programme, due to be announced in the summer, could be delayed by the election. He said: “The general plan is for a group to join every quarter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if during an election year that gets elongated.”