Allies of Nick Clegg have accused Michael Gove of ‘lunacy’ and claimed that the budget for free schools is ‘completely out of control’.
The Liberal Democrats have claimed that 30,000 state school places are being lost because money is being diverted to new free schools, the BBC reports.
According to sources in Nick Clegg’s office, last December the Education Secretary overruled David Laws, the Lib Dems’ schools minister, to take £400 million from the Basic Needs budget to help cover a projected £800 million overspend on the free schools.
Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, said: “He is basically raiding money that should be going to the vast majority of schools that have real needs for a small number of free schools, many of which are in places where there isn’t a pressure or a need. Michael Gove needs to be reined back, the programme needs to be properly costed and controlled.”
Mr. Gove’s allies called the Lib Dems ‘pathetic’. They said that the Basic Needs budget will rise by more than £200 million a year in 2015-17 and disputed the claim that free school places are being created where they are not most needed. “The suggestion we are cutting money for new places in areas of need to pay for free schools where they are not needed is totally wrong,” a spokesman for Mr. Gove said. “These claims pretend that money spent in free schools is not creating new places in areas of need. This is simply not true.”
Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, waded into the dispute, saying that there is a ‘national crisis’ over primary school places and that Michael Gove was behaving irresponsibly. However, he said that free schools “had the lib Dem stamp of approval from day one. They’re as much to blame for the failings as the Tories.”
What do you think of politicians trading insults in this way? And who’s in the right over funding, Tories, Lib Dems or Labour?