Anthony Hilton: Has PFI failed its screen test at the Treasury?
Saturday 09 June 2012
A lunch at Reform, one of our most productive think-tanks, focused on the private finance initiative, the contractual arrangement much favoured by Gordon Brown in which private-sector expertise and money was enlisted to build schools, swimming pools, hospitals and much else.
The theme of the discussions was bathwater and babies – the speaker who had a lifetime in the construction industry acknowledged the mistakes which had been made in PFI contracts – with the excess profits some private-equity houses made selling completed projects, the inflexibility and high cost in some of the contracts for running the facility once built and the difficulty of modifying specifications during the construction process being the most frequently cited. But these should not be allowed to obscure the benefits and in particular the fact there are hundreds of schools, hospitals and prisons in use today which would not have been built without it. So we should recognise the good bits of PFI and keep those, while getting rid of what we don't want.
None of this cuts much ice at the Treasury, however, because although it is conducting a review to determine whether PFI's flaws can be eliminated so it can have a future, the tone is pretty negative.
It is perhaps a mischievous suggestion but part of the reason may be that the Treasury itself is a PFI building, having been gutted and transformed in Gordon Brown's time under a PFI contract. This means the management of the facility remains in outside hands so Treasury staff have daily experience of the frustrations so familiar to many staff in schools and hospitals. Indeed, it may not help PFI's chances that a senior official involved with the review spent hours this year getting agreement for a television to be moved from one room to another so his team could watch the Budget and was then charged £450. He could have bought three TVs for less.
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Jason Derulo falling over in epic fashion, the event's most talked about moment, wasn't what it seemed
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...
£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...