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Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, commenting on the Guardian’s story on the hidden cost of free schools, said:

"This email starts to lift the lid on the murky world of Michael Gove's free school programme.

"The Secretary of State has close personal and political links to the New Schools Network. Before now, I have questioned whether the award of a grant to this organisation followed due process. This email appears to confirm that it did not. At the very least it appears there is a conflict of interest.

"There is a severe lack of transparency around the free school programme. It appears that cheques are handed out like confetti to certain favoured projects while mainstream schools are left to crumble with their building projects cancelled.

"This is no way to run a Government department or to allocate public money. Michael Gove must urgently explain the contents of this email and answer whether or not he asked civil servants to depart from usual protocols to award this grant to a charity to which he has close links."

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