Ministers ‘misused money’ at school hit by scandal

The head of a powerful spending watchdog has accused the Government of misusing public money in a land deal for a troubled free school which will see almost £6m paid to the company of a vice chairman of the Conservative Party over 20 years. This is from the Yorkshire Post

Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge questioned why Department for Education (DfE) bosses agreed the deal for the Kings Science Academy with Alan Lewis’s company at a time when they had believed he was the school’s chairman of governors…

Mrs Hodge said she had received a local valuation suggesting the DfE had agreed a deal three times the market rate. She has been told the rent for the site should have been under £100,000 a year when the agreed deal was around £295,000. Mrs Hodge also asked if officials had considered if any conflict of interest existed.

Mr Lewis is the school’s executive patron but the DfE has said that for 12 months between October 2011 and October 2012 it had wrongly believed him to be the chairman of governors after being told this by the school. It later discovered this was not the case.

A spokesman for Mr Lewis’s company, the Hartley Group, has previously said Mr Lewis had never been chairman or had responsibility for financial management or governance at the free school.

Commenting on the land deal, Mrs Hodge said: “How on earth did that ever happen? So there is £300,0000 a year, a 20-year deal, so £6m to a person who was chair – even if he now says he wasn’t chair – he calls himself executive patron, which I don’t quite understand as a term, which according to local valuation should have been under £100,000 per annum it’s actually almost £300,000. How can you explain this? That is a complete, it seems to me, misuse of public resources.”

The DfE’s permanent secretary Chris Wormald questioned the reliability of the valuation that Mrs Hodge had received. Peter Lauener, the chief executive of the Education Funding Agency, said the site was chosen after an assessment of nine suitable locations.

He said officials had been aware that the land deal had involved a potential conflict of interest so took “extra steps in the process”.

He said independent property consultants had confirmed that the value of the deal was in line with market rents…

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Categories: Free Schools.

Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove These financial dealings seem extremely murky, with arguments over semantics. Basically DfE financing whimsical projects

  2. wrioeproewi

    SchoolsImprove Keep pressing margarethodge there are many more donor pal scandals in Gove!s ‘free’school fiasco to b exposes

  3. Sue_Cowley

    edujdw if they weren’t exempt charities they’d have to publish annual accounts online and we’d see all the numbers.

  4. Sue_Cowley

    rrunsworth edujdw sorry didn’t know that, where do they publish? And are the rules different do you know on trustees paying relatives?

  5. edujdw

    Sue_Cowley not the accounts the valuations – from where + how many? If like house valuation then highly variable and easily manipulated.

  6. rrunsworth

    Sue_Cowley edujdw Usually publish on website. Articles of Assoc are clear, any relative/friend/however small connection, conflict must be

  7. rrunsworth

    Sue_Cowley edujdw 2/2 declared & trustee remove him/herself fr decision making process. Must be minuted. Kings failed on basic governance

  8. Sue_Cowley

    rrunsworth edujdw Thanks for clarifying, Raj, so similar to us in that Charities Commission/DfE should pick that up as regulator?

  9. rrunsworth

    Sue_Cowley edujdw Yes but like LAs with maintained schools, won’t have time to read GB minutes. Usually come to light when things go wrong

  10. Sue_Cowley

    rrunsworth edujdw indeed, who’s watching ? Vital then to have wide range of people on board of governors who all understand their duties?

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