COUNCILLORS were playing the blame game over Bradford’s lack of school places at a meeting tonight.

Although the three major parties all said the district had a major problem, they could not agree on who was ultimately responsible.

Labour councillors blamed the Coalition Government for not granting enough funding to expand schools, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats blamed the Labour-led council for spending money on other initiatives, such as swimming pools.

The ruling Labour group put forward a motion calling on the next government to make sure funding for new school places was targeted at those parts of the country where places were needed.

It also said the Academies Act 2010 prevented local councils from setting up and running schools, and called for these powers to be reinstated.

Executive member for children’s services Cllr Ralph Berry attacked the Government’s funding allocation for school places, which he said represented a 92 per cent cut for the district. He said: “That’s not just ridiculous, it’s wanton irresponsibility.”

The Labour group was also critical of the amount being spent on free schools, saying these were often not being set up in the places where new schools were most needed. But Conservative education spokesperson Cllr Debbie Davies said there were nine under-subscribed secondary schools across the district which parents were avoiding because they were deemed “not good enough for their children”.

And she came to the defence of free schools, saying she recently paid a visit to Bradford’s One In a Million free school and had been impressed. She said: “The school has been open for less than two years and it received over 300 applications for just over 60 places to start this September.”

Her colleague, Cllr Jackie Whiteley (Con, Wharfedale), who has been campaigning for more school places in the Ilkley area, believed the council could do something about the problem if it really wanted to. “You could act if you choose to,” she said.

Liberal Deomcrat group leader Jeanette Sunderland said: “Families are having a miserable time of it. There can’t be a councillor in this chamber that’s not had some families in some really difficult situations with school places.”

But she urged the council to take the matter into its own hands, saying: “Hand-wringing and blaming the government is not going to fix this problem now.”

And Cllr Lynne Smith (Lab, Wibsey) said: “Yes, parents are absolutely right to expect the council to provide school places. However, it would be nice if we had the power to do it.”

The Labour motion was passed when it was taken to the vote.