The Treasury only gave funding to rebuild 50 crumbling schools a year after a bid was put in for 200 while Rishi Sunak was chancellor, a minister has admitted.
Nick Gibb said it was “simply not true” to say the prime minister oversaw budget cuts to a rebuilding programme in 2021, telling Sky News that 50 a year was in line with previous austerity years.
However, he admitted a request was put in to fund the rebuilding of more than double that amount.
He said: “We put in a bid for 200 but of course the Treasury then has to compare that bid with all the other priorities right across Whitehall from the health service, from defence and so on.
“What Rishi agreed to was to continue the rebuilding programme at 50 year, consistent with what we had been doing.”
Mr Nick Gibb claimed the government is taking more proactive action than anyone “in the world” over the concrete crisis.
He said he did not accept criticism from the National Audit Office (NAO) that the Department for Education (DfE) was taking a “sticking plaster approach” to crumbling schools.
Writing in the Times, NAO chief Gareth Davies suggested that there had not been sufficient focus on “unflashy but essential tasks” such as maintaining public buildings that have faced “underinvestment”.
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But Mr Gibb said: “I don’t accept that.
“We are taking more proactive action on that than any other government in the world. We are the government that put out the warning notice in 2018. We are the government that sent questionnaires to every responsible body asking them to tell us about RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) in their schools.”
It comes as Rishi Sunak and Gillian Keegan face growing pressure over the collapse-prone concrete closing schools, as the education secretary was forced to apologise after claiming others had failed to tackle the crisis in a sweary outburst.
The issue has caused disruption for thousands of pupils just as they go back to school following the summer holidays.