Day 89 of this blog detailed a letter sent by SMS to Partnership for Schools (PfS) – the quango that doles out the ever-diminishing Pot of Gold that is BSF money. The full reply is given below but is summarised here:
As of today, Bedford Borough, according to PfS, has funding which is simply “earmarked”.
Also, and very worryingly for everyone who is relying on the BSF funding for secondary schools…as PfS say…
“It remains possible, however, for Government to change policy at any point. In other words, no absolute assurance can ever be given on whether a programme will commence to its ultimate end.”
And who believes this money will be available in full after the next election?
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 4:16 PM
Subject: Re: BSF bid for Bedford Borough
Thank you for your email. We will respond to your two questions separately:
1. Would you kindly advise me how this unequivical commitment will actually express itself – e.g. a simple letter from PfS restating this or perhaps a legally binding contract that ensures the funds will not disappear after the expected change of Government next May/June or something else.
Partnerships for Schools operates a detailed process for evaluating and approving (once all criteria have been met) each local authority’s (LA) BSF proposals. The first formal stage, following entry to the programme, is to produce a Strategy for Change that sets out the LA’s education vision and estates strategy for all the secondary schools in its area.
An Outline Business Case (OBC) is subsequently produced, reviewed and approved once all issues have been met. At this point an approval letter is issued to the LA, which sets out a commitment in principle to fund the project, subject to submission of a Final Business Case (FBC) at the conclusion of the procurement process to find the delivery partner (the Local Education Partnership) that will deliver the original BSF vision and strategy.
Approval of the FBC, and the subsequent issue of a Promissory Note, is the final step in releasing funding to the LA for its BSF programme, but the approval of an OBC is representative of an approval to go out to procure and is taken as the formal approval for the LA’s proposals, subject to confirmation in the FBC that nothing material has changed, and if it has that there is sufficient justification for this.
Funding is, however, committed in principle for the group of schools specified as having entered the BSF programme after a Remit meeting (this is the stage Bedford Borough is currently at), but not finally confirmed until the steps outlined above have been achieved. This describes the process as it exists at present, and there is no indication that it will change before or after a general election, but obviously Partnerships for Schools, as a delivery agency, does not have any remit over policy decision, current or future.
2. I understand you operate a 6 stage process with each LEA – pre-engagement, strategy for change,outline business case, procurement, financial close,operational lep. Would Bedford Borough need to be past a certain stage in this process to ensure that funds were not cut part way through the building programme?
As set out above, this is usually assumed to be at OBC (the end of the ‘preparatory work’ the Mayor referred to above). It remains possible, however, for Government to change policy at any point. In other words, no absolute assurance can ever be given on whether a programme will commence to its ultimate end, but that is irrespective of the current political context and timetable for future elections.
I hope this information helps.
It certainly does, it certainly does…