“FREE schools are an achievement this Government should be proud of.”

That was the verdict of Toby Young, guest speaker at the fourth anniversary celebrations of Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services.

The sometimes controversial broadcaster, associate editor of The Spectator magazine, blogger for The Telegraph and co-founder of the first free school in England to sign a funding agreement with Michael Gove, certainly helped to draw a crowd at the party held at Lord Wandsworth College, in Long Sutton.

About 60 people went to show their support for the procurement company, which has offices at Basepoint Enterprise Centre, in Basingstoke.

After an introduction from Fergus Livingstone, headmaster at Lord Wandsworth College, Minerva director Lorraine Ashover thanked those present for their help and support over the past 12 months.

She said: “With your support, Minerva clients are enjoying ongoing annual savings of more than £350,000 and growing. These savings allow schools to spend more money on their pupils and improve their educational outcomes as a result. It’s something we should all be proud of.”

Mr Young spoke of how he helped set up the West London Free School, as he and his wife were unhappy with the local provision in the area for their four children.

Of particular interest to the bursars and school business managers among the guests was Mr Young’s experience of trying to keep abreast of procurement guidelines in his capacity as a governor of the school.

“It’s a real issue in schools,” said Lorraine.

“Heads are there to manage staff and work on academic aspects. They shouldn’t have to spend their time wading through all this red tape.

“That’s where Minerva comes in. We do the hard work so those in the school don’t have to, including the school’s over-worked administrative staff.”