Future of BSF hangs in the balance

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Future of BSF hangs in the balance

Microscope contributor

The coalition government is expected to call time on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme later today, months ealier than planned.

The Department for Education stated in June that it was "reviewing" BSF to ensure the £55bn initiative was "cost effective and efficient" but it would seem to have reached a conclusion sooner than expected.

According to reports, Education Secretary Michael Gove will outline his reasons for scrapping the scheme this afternoon, claiming it was poorly designed and executed and ending it will save £1bn for each of the five years the project was due to run.

Labour has wasted no time in criticising the move, with Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls stating: "That is private sector jobs that are going to be lost now, as well as the new schools which aren't going to be rebuilt. It is very short sighted."

Local education authorities have been aware of the sweeping changes a new administration could exact on BSF and since late last year some have brought forward projects in anticipation of those moves.

Around 180 schools have been re-built by BSF funding since its inception under Labour in 2004, but another 700 new schools are in the pipeline and may be cancelled.

Recent reports state preferred bidders have won £1.1bn worth of deals in the last month alone, including projects in Derbyshire and Essex won by IT specialist RM.

The Conservative-led alliance is understood to favour the Academies programme which may not be a bad thing for SME IT suppliers that have struggled to match the capital outlay required to bid for BSF.

"We found breaking into the BSF programme challenging as it appeared to be designed for much larger players," said Yolanta Gill, chief executive at education focused reseller European Electronique.

"We therefore had to resign ourselves to forming relationships with much larger companies and to date we have settled for supply chain partner status," she added.

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