Analysis produced by the Labour Party shows that seven times as many Conservative councils want to sell off school playing fields compared to Labour councils.
Figures show that of the 35 decisions made by ministers on the disposal of school playing fields since the General Election, 30 of the applications have been by a Conservative council, 4 by a Labour council, and 1 by a Liberal Democrat council.
In our region there have been 3 decisions to dispose of school playing fields - all by Conservative councils in North Yorkshire.
In addition, all of the cases where Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, overturned the advice of the independent expert panel on playing fields were applications from Conservative councils. This included one such decision at Ingleton Middle School in North Yorkshire.
And serious questions are being asked about why Michael Gove overruled the independent panel in approving an application by Tory-run Wandsworth Council to sell off 60% of The Elliott School’s playing fields.
According to reports, campaigners fear that a ‘backroom stitch-up’ may have been agreed between Michael Gove and Wandsworth Council, that the Education Secretary would approve the playing field disposal in return for Wandsworth funding the purchase of land for a new free school in Battersea.
Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary said:
“There is clearly a very cosy relationship between Michael Gove and Tory Councils. The Tory Council applies to sell off their school playing fields, and Michael Gove gives it the nod – often flying in the face of real concerns from the independent school playing field panel.
“These figures show the effect a Tory Council can have. Parents will be rightly concerned that seven times more Conservative councils have tried to sell off a school playing field than Labour councils. It flies in the face of the assurances that David Cameron made about our Olympic legacy.
“Of course the real blame for these sales lies with Michael Gove and the Government, who have cut the schools capital budget by two thirds. It is not surprising that in order to deal with real pressure on school places and plug holes in their budgets, some schools are considering putting classrooms on pitches or selling fields to developers.
“This whole saga has shown Michael Gove to be both incompetent and out of touch with the wishes of parents and pupils. If we are to have any confidence, Michael Gove must come clean and explain why he overturned the independent expert panel, by publishing all the correspondence on the sale of school playing fields.”