Balls had full backing of Treasury for BSF committments

The permanent secretary at the depertment for education has backed up Ed Balls's claims that all capital funding announcements when he was schools secretary.

Michael Gove’s claim yesterday that all Ed Balls’s spending plans when schools secretary “were based on unsustainable assumptions and led to unfunded promises” have been undermined by the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, who has written to Mr Balls to confirm that all capital funding announcements made when he was a Minister – including the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme – had the “appropriate cover” of the Treasury.

The education secretary’s scrapping of the BSF, which will result in 719 school redevelopments being axed, also undercuts George Osborne’s pledge in the Budget last month that “there will be no further reductions in capital spending totals”.

Mr Balls, one of the frontrunners to be the next leader of the Labour Party, had written to David Bell asking him to confirm all announcements were made with prior arrangement of the Treasury; future waves of BSF announcements were part of the Pre-Budget Report settlement; all capital projects had the full agreement of the department’s chief accounting officer; and no Ministerial direction was ever requested.

In his reply to the shadow education secretary, Mr Bell wrote:

During your time as Secretary of State, I can confirm that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) worked closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury to ensure that appropriate cover was provided for all spending decisions…

If any actions on this, or any matter, were in breach of the requirements of propriety or regularity, I would have sought a Ministerial Direction. I can confirm that I made no such requests during your time as Secretary of State.

Describing the scrapping of the BSF programme as a “tragedy” for teachers and parents who would have benefited from new facilities, Mr Balls told the Commons that Labour would continue to fight to “save our new schools” and called yesterday “a black day for our country’s schools”.

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