The free school spending free-for-all: MPs savage lack of proper oversight

The Independent is reporting that the Public Accounts Committee has delivered a scathing attack on the financial oversight of Michael Gove’s free schools programme…

Opening the new schools “at such speed” has led to risks, including a failure “to ensure public money is used properly”, even though £1.1bn has already been spent on them, say MPs on the cross-party Commons Public Accounts Committee.

“Standards of financial management and governance in some free schools are clearly not up to scratch,” they say.

As a result, the Government has to rely on whistleblowers to expose financial mismanagement rather than its own checks on spending.

In addition, the committee reveals that only half the free schools filed their accounts to the Education Funding Agency on time…

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said both the Department for Education and its funding agency “must improve their arrangements for the auditing and accountability of free schools so that we can follow the taxpayers’ pound and satisfy ourselves that public money is being spent wisely”…

It goes on to warn that many of the free school places are being provided in areas where the need for extra provision is not at its greatest….

Ministers have earmarked £1.5bn for the free schools project by March 2015 – and £1.1bn has been spent. The report warns that rising capital costs – as a result of schools being opened in more expensive regions such as London, the South-east and South-west – means there is a risk of the programme overshooting its budget…

Mr Gove delivered a robust defence of the project when he addressed an education conference at Brighton College yesterday afternoon.

He said: “There has yet to be sufficient focus on what has gone right with the programme. There are lots of successes and I think we are learning from those successes about making sure that intervention works…”

More at: The free school spending free-for-all: MPs savage lack of proper oversight of how £1.1bn of public money has been spent

With a year to go until the next election, should we look at this as political points scoring from Labour head of the PAC or appropriate concern at the developing free schools programme? Please give us your reaction in the comments or via Twitter…

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Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Michael Gove has been shown to be purely ideological rather than educational at every turn, yet is still in post #baffling

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This is exactly the kind of story that gives no-one faith in Uk politics. Who to vote for over education? No choices…

  3. CathyWood55

    SchoolsImprove As shocking as over-spends & fraudulent practice in some free schools is ability of perpetrators to walk away unscathed

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