COUNCIL taxpayers could be footing a bill of up to £10m for axed school plans in Kirklees.
That is expected to be the final cost of the massive preparatory project for the £400m Building Schools for the Future scheme – ditched on Monday by the Government.
And it seems unlikely the council will be able to claw back any of the money.
Council leader Mehboob Khan said the actual figure last year had reached £7m and a tremendous amount of work had been done in the past 12 months.
The money accounts for the work done by architects and surveyors on dozens of schools to determine what was required, plus the work put in by council officials.
In addition, the scheme was subjected to a massive consultation exercise which entailed countless public meetings, seminars and huge bundles of documents.
“It was money that we had to spend to put the plans together and it was money that came from council coffers” said Clr Khan.
Those costs have added to the anger and disappointment felt by the decision to scrap the BSF scheme.
A teaching union president has described the axing of schools cash in Kirklees as an “absolute blow.”
Gill Goodswen, president of the NUT and a former primary school head within the authority, said children would be hit the hardest and it was disastrous for many communities.
Mrs Goodswen, who was head at Stile Common Junior School, was speaking after education secretary Michael Gove axed the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme.
The announcement means refurbishing or rebuilding at more than 20 Kirklees schools, including the new Fartown High School, will be shelved.
Mrs Goodswen said: “Losing this money is a massive problem for Kirklees. They will need to think again about the areas where change is needed.
“I don’t think the Building Schools for the Future plans were necessarily the best for community cohesion but it was addressing a real need in some of Kirklees’s most disadvantaged communities.
“The authority was attempting to invigorate a community with a new build school, but not addressing the underlying needs of that community. Deprivation is a bigger picture which a big new school cannot address overnight.”
Clr Ken Smith, Kirklees Council cabinet member for children and families described the cuts as the biggest blow ever to hit the authority and the worst day for the future of many generations.
Kirklees, he said, still had a hill to climb to improve its education attainment at age 16 and he committed the council to help schools improve this.
“We still have a duty to all our children to raise the achievement of our education system.
“This decision removes a major tool in seeking improvement and we will work on other means, especially on a new spirit of co-operation between schools, to take advantage of every teacher, every piece of equipment for the benefit of all pupils no matter which school they attend,” he said.
“The £400m spent on our future investment in Kirklees would have been the biggest ever boost for our area both now and for the future of better-educated young people,” he added.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, former chairman of the education select committee, pledged to fight the proposals.
“We have got to forge a plan and bounce back from this dreadful decision,” he said.
Mr Sheerman said Michael Gove’s announcement was a “bitter blow” which totally undermined the role of local government in education.
He said many schools and communities were full of hope and aspirations for the future with the rebuilding and new build programme.
“BSF was a wonderful programme. For the first time it asked local councils what kind of educational vision for their area they had. It has all been snatched away,” he said.
Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said:“This is a devastating, cruel decision. All the money, work and time that have gone into this project have been wasted and the hopes of thousands of children, parents and teachers have been cynically dashed.
“This throws the schools situation in Batley and Cleckheaton into chaos and it will mean much needed improvements to primary schools in Cleckheaton, Hightown and East Bierley now won’t happen.”
Dewsbury Tory MP Simon Reevell said: “The BSF scheme was unaffordable and incredibly bureaucratic. Four years after the Kirklees schools first applied for funding and after hours and hours of work no money was forthcoming.
“What’s important is that we identify the particular needs of individual schools and make sure that any necessary capital investment takes place rather than worry about some bureaucratic scheme that was as much about consultants and theory as it was about children’s education.”