Ealing and Northfield National politics

The trained economist on schools

Cllr Bell then goes on to talk about schools, or particularly Ealing part of the BSF programme. He says:

On top of this we have had the majority of our “Building Schools for the Future” funding brutally cut, meaning that we do not have any government money for the new High School in the north of the Borough or for 15 other High School building improvements including much needed Special Educational Needs provision – a particularly mean and cruel aspect of the Secretary of State’s decision.

He does not say who “brutally” halved the country’s capital spending plans so “meanly and cruelly”. It was of course the previous Labour chancellor Alastair Darling. Darling will I think be judged by history as one of the more honourable members of the Labour government. Unfortunately he was not quite honourable enough to spell out the implications of halving the country’s capital spending in December last year when he had the chance at the Pre-Budget Report.

If you go to table B13 on page 189 of the December 2009 Pre-Budget Report you can see how public sector net investment was due to be halved by Alastair Darling, see below (click to enlarge).

Darling made such a shocking cut to the country’s capital spending programme that during George Osborne’s budget speech he said:

We have faced many tough choices about the areas in which we should make additional savings, but I have decided that capital spending should not be one of them.

There will be no further reductions in capital spending totals in this Budget.

But we will still make careful choices about how that capital is spent. The absolute priority will be projects with a significant economic return to the country. Assessing what those projects are will be an important part of the autumn spending review.

BSF was always going to get axed whoever won the election. It was a dumb programme – its objective was to replace every secondary school in the country regardless of its current state and regardless of whatever other priorities there were. In addition to being unaffordable it was also unecessarily complicated and produced expensive, over-engineered but dull looking schools but that is another argument. Michael Gove’s mistake in announcing the curtailing of this programme was not to spell out that it was Darling’s cut. A much smarter, and necessarily smaller, schools building programme will emerge from the autumn spending review.

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