The Government’s spending cuts have been dealt a blow after six councils won their High Court challenge over Michael Gove’s decision to scrap school building projects in different parts of the country.
The Education Secretary was told he must reconsider his decision to axe the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme in each of the six authorities after Mr Justice Holman ruled that Mr Gove had unlawfully failed to consult them before imposing the cuts.
In five of the cases the failure was “so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”, the judge said.
The judgment leaves it doubtful that other local authorities will be able to seek a judicial review of BSF on similar grounds, after Mr Justice Holman said it was his view that it was “far too late” for them to apply. In this case, the judge said, “fortune has favoured the brave”.
But the decision could leave the door open for those affected by other central or local government spending cuts to apply for a judicial review because they believe they have not been consulted.
The victorious authorities involved in the case include Waltham Forest Council, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell Council, Kent County Council and Newham Council.
Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper said: “At the very least, we have been vindicated for bringing the action. Now we have to wait to see whether the Government accepts it was too hasty in scrapping the scheme.”
Waltham Forest Council leader Chris Robbins said: “The Government now has to go back and reconsider how the devastating decision to cancel BSF projects in Waltham Forest was made. It is a victory for common sense and fair play.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are delighted that the judge did not call into question the decision to end the wasteful and bureaucratic Building Schools for the Future programme. On the substantive points he concluded that it was a rational decision and that the authorities involved had no expectation of being allowed to proceed with their projects.”
Mr Gove will now look again at his decision with regard to these authorities with an open mind, taking representations from them, the spokesman added.