Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of prioritising tax cuts for champagne over providing essential funding for school building repairs. While visiting Park View School in North London, the Labour leader criticised the Prime Minister’s past decision as Chancellor to cut champagne tax rates instead of allocating funds for school maintenance. Park View School in Haringey had to resort to temporary Portakabins due to structural issues with the upper floor.
In the 2021 autumn budget, Sunak introduced changes to alcohol duty that favoured low-strength drinks and sparkling wines. Starmer plans to challenge the Prime Minister’s record as Chancellor during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Starmer highlighted the human impact of the government’s negligence, citing Park View’s loss of 15 classrooms and the challenges of teaching 200 children in inadequate conditions. He rejected the notion that the Conservative coalition government had no alternative but to cut Labour’s school rebuilding program in 2010 due to financial constraints.
Regarding Labour’s approach to fixing the crisis, Starmer emphasised ensuring that schools are “open and safe.” However, he did not provide specific details of a potential government program, stating that every commitment would be accompanied by a clear funding source, to be disclosed closer to the election.
The attack by Starmer coincided with Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, asserting that the concrete issues in schools underscored the government’s indifference to education. While acknowledging flaws in the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) program, Barton noted that it at least addressed the need for school repairs nationwide.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps refrained from criticising Gillian Keegan’s call for schools to actively address the concrete survey, emphasising the importance of resolving the issue to ensure the safety of children and staff.