Councils are rightly concerned that democratic oversight and scrutiny are largely absent from the way in which the new Academies spend their government largesse. The problem is that they are run by the same venal, mediocre and self serving public servants who ran schools under tight Council financial control, but who are now free to feed their sense of entitlement with outrageous splurging on luxury hotels, first class travel and Michelin-starred meals, booze and incidentals from the text book budget.
You'd think the fools of civil servants at the Education Department would have learnt. I watched the first wave of BSF schools go up - I rejected all attempts to get us involved in building them, though. Designers were given free rein to pad their portfolios with all the prone-to-failure crap, over-budget indulgence and onanistic self-regard they could imagine; we got atriums, internal rainwater pipes, hidden gutters, masses of glass, innovative cladding, sustainable energy systems. Gullible and credulous school staff who shouldn't have been allowed to oversee the tuck shop were easily taken in.
The classrooms cost on average 220% of the standard classroom floor area cost to pay for the bling and the crap. And now all those nasty little experiments are failing; atriums are unusable wind-blasted vortex traps, the internal downpipes leak, making whole areas unusable; the hidden gutters were never cleaned, got filled with leaves and the sodden wet roofs are collapsing, the glass in the walls made classrooms unusable whenever the sun shone blinding the white-board and creating poorly ventilated sweat-boxes, the glass in the roofs leaks, the innovative cladding is falling off and the sustainable energy systems are so unreliable and prone to failure that some schools have converted to oil boilers just to stay open. And masses of semi-competent designers made stacks of money.
I suppose you can't blame the Academy staff. They are the vicars and canons in a ecclesiastic mess of pre-reformation corruption, greed and venality of which the university vice-chancellors are the bloated, mega-rich abbots, their mouths stuffed with tax gold, drawing salaries that dwarf the Prime Minister's, replete with the sort of status, wealth and privilege that accrues to the successful bosses of multinationals. Once they have has their fill of business class air travel to attend conferences in the Maldives their narcissism and vanity will compel them to build. It always does. I predict a new wave of bankrupt Academies each with a half-built library block, swimming pool or theatre which will not now be called the Arthur Scroggs Wing because said Arthur Scroggs in now himself in 'B' wing doing a four-stretch for theft and fraud.