A former top civil servant has accused Rishi Sunak of failing to fully fund a critical schools rebuilding scheme when he was Chancellor. Jonathan Slater, who was permanent secretary at the Department for Education for four years until 2020, said that Sunak halved the number of schools that were to be rebuilt from 100 to 50 in the 2021 spending review.

Slater said that this was despite warnings from officials that there was a “critical risk to life” from crumbling concrete panels in schools built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). He said that the decision to halve the rebuilding programme was “frustrating” and that it had put children and teachers at risk.

Sunak’s office has not yet responded to the allegations.

The news comes at a time when there is growing concern about the state of school buildings in England. A recent survey by the National Audit Office found that one in five schools had serious problems with their buildings, such as leaking roofs and damp walls.

The government has said that it is committed to improving school buildings, but it has not yet announced how much money it will invest in this area.

The allegations against Sunak are likely to add to the pressure on him over his handling of the economy. He has already been criticized for his decision to raise taxes, which some argue will damage the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news is also likely to be welcomed by Labour, who have been critical of the government’s record on education. The party’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said that the allegations were “deeply concerning” and that they showed that Sunak was “not fit to be Chancellor”.

The allegations against Sunak are serious and they will need to be investigated further. If they are found to be true, it will be a major embarrassment for the Chancellor and it will raise questions about his judgment.

In the meantime, the government needs to urgently address the problem of crumbling school buildings. Children and teachers deserve to learn and work in safe and secure environments.

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