Michael Gove Ignored His Own Panels Advice On Selling Playing Fields
|Education minister Michael Gove has ignored expert advice from an independent panel, that he established, over the sale of school playing fields, the Guardian has reported.
In the past 15 months the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel has opposed the sell-off of such facilities five times, but sales were still pushed through.
Ministers must give approval of any sales of playing fields, and despite a promise in the coalition agreement to protect them, figures show that disposals continue to rise.
The number of fields approved for sale by ministers since 2010 is also much higher than the government originally disclosed, according to figures seen by the Daily Telegraph.
It said the panel received 35 applications between May and July this year, 30 of which were approved by ministers.
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Two were rejected, one was withdrawn and two remain outstanding.
It is understood the decisions were mostly taken by education minister Lord Hill on behalf of Gove.
The government however has previously said that it had approved the disposal of just 21 playing fileds since 2010.
The panel is legally bound to make a recommendation on each sell-off and the documents show Gove ignored five recommendations not to sell between February last year and this July – more than in the previous nine years.
Labour's shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, accused the government of running a secret scheme to sell off playing fields. "The fact that Michael Gove has ignored the advice of independent experts and ploughed ahead with selling off school playing fields shows he is shamefully out of touch," Twigg said. "He also appears to have failed to disclose at least another 10 school playing field sell-offs when responding to a Freedom of Information request. This is misleading and incompetent at the very least.
"[He] must now come clean and explain what appears to be a secret programme to sell off school playing fields."
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