Since May 2010 a new 420-place primary school has been approved in Kingswood, to open in September 2015, as well as another 420 primary school places in other schools. This week, a new £5.4 million primary school has been approved for Emersons Green East. Can the Minister estimate the total amount of extra funding and investment that has gone into the Kingswood constituency for primary school places in the past four years?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I congratulate him on his work to help us ensure additional places in his constituency. I confirm that under the previous Labour Government, £17 million was made available in his local authority area for basic need, and that has risen to £23 million in this Parliament. We have allocated another £9 million over the next two years, meaning that £32 million extra has been made available by this coalition Government for school places in my hon. Friend’s area.
Lib Dem councillors in Cambridge are calling this a crisis, and Tories in Surrey are saying there is a severe shortfall in places for next September. Bradford council says that it has a primary school places problem, and in nearby Leeds a secondary free school has attracted only 11 additional pupils this term. When will the Minister drop the ideological policy on primary school places that was adopted by his Tory master, and put parents and pupils first?
We are putting pupils and parents first, and we are reversing a decline in primary school places. Under the last Labour Government, 200,000 primary school places were taken out of circulation, precisely at a time when the birth rate was rising. We will not follow such an irresponsible policy.
The coalition Government have rightly given their support to the proposed new West Didsbury primary school, to provide much-needed additional places. As we conclude the final consultation phase, will my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will maintain coalition support for those vital new places, despite ideological opposition from Manchester city council?