To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many sites for new schools were purchased by the Education Skills Funding Agency in the last three years at 60 per cent above the Red Book price; how many of those purchases were investigated by the accounting officer; and if she will make a statement.
The department purchases sites for future free schools where it represents value for money. We do not pay in excess of what a site is worth or purchase expensive sites if there are better value for money alternatives in the area.
Official market value is subjective and at a specific point in time, we do carry out Red Book Valuations as per Treasury Green Book guidelines but these reports are carried out as a guide to the sites value and are treated as commercially confidential documents.
The ESFA acquired 175 freehold sites between 2011 and 2016. On average, they paid 19% above Red Book Valuations for free schools with 20 sites costing 60% or more and 31 sites costing less than the Red Book Valuation. Any site that has been acquired that is 60% above the Red Book Valuation requires the ESFA Accounting Officer and HM Treasury approval.