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AN ACADEMY chain accused of making false claims for government grants is a damning indictment of Tory privatisation, Dave Prentis said today.
The Unison general secretary told TUC Congress that the next Labour government must “act immediately and end privatisation from day one.”
He spoke before last night’s airing of a BBC Panorama programme which revealed that Bright Tribe, a multi-academy trust that runs 10 schools across England, received funding for works that were either not finished or simply never carried out.
Last night’s programme reported that Bright Tribe was given £566,000 to demolish and rebuild unstable walls in the sports centre at Colchester Academy.
An insider told Panorama that a cheap repair job only cost about £60,000, but the school billed for the full amount and falsely told the government the work had been completed.
Bright Tribe founder Michael Dwan made his reported £114 million fortune from private contracts in the NHS.
Mr Dwan’s own companies have been paid £8m for services by Bright Tribe and the Adventure Learning Academy Trust, to which the businessman is also linked.
Unison leader Mr Prentis used his speech at Congress to accuse the chain of “allegedly siphoning off hundreds of thousands of pounds from our children’s education.”
He added: “All of this is what privatisation, outsourcing and PFI looks like.”
Mr Dwan insisted: “Actually we made a loss” on the work done by his company, as it had cost him £10.5m.
He said he did not control the academy chains as he was only a “very, very interested observer,” but Panorama said that “numerous insiders” had told journalists that Mr Dwan made key decisions.
Bright Tribe also claimed £255,000 for fire safety improvements at the sports centre, despite being warned by school staff that the work had not been completed and the building was still unsafe.
New Bright Tribe trustees have commissioned independent probes into the allegations.
“If any rules have been breached, then swift action will be taken, with the Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency kept fully appraised,” the trust said in a statement.
The trust was originally reported to the Education Funding Agency by Unison in July 2015, yet the public-sector union said the government continued to give Bright Side £1 million of public cash for schools in the north of England.
Unison head of education Jon Richards said: "Ministers seem to have allowed a situation to develop where commercial interests overrode taxpayers’ interests and the public good. Pupils, parents and the public purse have all paid the price.
"An inquiry is needed urgently to ensure that all lessons have been learned."
Mr Dwan denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
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