Senior Conservatives back report by right-wing think tank that calls for delivery body to be replaced

The Conservatives are preparing to slash the budget of delivery body Partnerships for Schools under proposals to cut the cost of the UK’s school building programme.

The plans are part of an overhaul of schools policy, including the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme, being discussed by the shadow Treasury team and shadow schools department. It is likely to see funds diverted from new buildings and major refurbishments towards smaller improvements in areas such as IT and furnishings.

It is understood that, over the past month, Tory representatives, including shadow schools minister Nick Gibb, have advised senior industry figures of their intention to give local authorities direct control over the bulk of schools spending. Schools would be encouraged to replace building projects with smaller improvements wherever possible.

Senior party figures are privately backing a report by right-wing think tank the Centre for Policy Studies, released yesterday, which recommends Partnerships for Schools (PfS) be scrapped and replaced with a smaller organisation, reducing the £12m annual administrative budget by half.

In its report, the think tank says: “The current system has not succeeded in helping new providers setting up schools, as the slow progress of the academies model shows.”

The report goes on to recommend the creation of a small central body within the Department for Children, Schools and Families to provide advice and guidance on planning regulations and building design.

Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive of the UK Contractors Group, said: “Reducing PfS significantly could erode the spread of expertise between local authorities. But cuts to procurement would be helpful.”

A spokesperson for PfS said: “We are already responsible for delivering a diverse range of schools, providing greater choice for parents and ensuring accountability and transparency – all of which are principles identified as priorities by the Centre for Policy Studies.”