Former education secretary and ardent Brexiter Michael Gove has admitted that scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme when he took office in 2010 was one of his worst mistakes in government.
Gove, now a backbench MP, abolished the £55bn school-building programme, introduced by the previous Labour administration, shortly after the coalition government was formed.
Michael Gove: regrets
In reviewing the scheme he decided he concluded that all local authority schemes that had not reached financial close would not go ahead, saving “billions” of pounds. This meant that 719 school revamps already signed up to the scheme were jettisoned, causing wide anger across the sector has teams were disbanded and job cuts were made – particularly among consultants.
Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show (27 November), he said that his handling of the issue had been one of his worst mistakes in politics.
“It was not so much that it was wrong to save public money. It was done in a crass and insensitive way and it taught me a lesson,” he said.
He also alienated architects by claiming they had “creamed off cash” from the programme and that the money spent on design would be better spent on “frontline services”.
Taking informal questions at a 2011 free schools conference, he said: “And we won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school; we won’t be getting any award-winning architects to design it; because no one in this room is here to make architects richer.”
He read a statement in the House of Commons outlining which projects were to be scrapped, subsequently turned out to contain several errors, with several school rebuilds listed as going ahead when in fact they had been cancelled.
He later told MPs: “That confusion caused members of this house and members of the public understandable distress and concern, and I wish to take full personal responsibility for that regrettable error.”