We need to talk about the future of PFI and we need to force our politicians to address the subject.
Politicians may want to shut down any discussion about PFI with the usual mud-slinging of who’s to blame – who started it – and who ran with it the farthest, but the legacy of PFI is something we all have to live with in the form of unsafe public buildings and mounting PFI debt repayments leading directly to even deeper public service cuts.
People vs PFI are therefore calling for the following manifesto pledges to be adopted:
- To reject any future use of private finance for public infrastructure, whether that be for road, rail, waste disposal, renewable energy, flood defences, student accommodation, housing, schools or hospitals. All future infrastructure should be financed, as it was for centuries, through tax revenue or government borrowing – the cheapest method. All services required to run public infrastructure, such as cleaning, catering and maintenance, should be provided by the public sector securing decent wages and conditions for workers and a high standard of service for users.
And as a first step to end the profiteering from PFI contracts,
- To take into public ownership the companies which signed the PFI contracts – the ‘Special Purpose Vehicles’. These companies are the means by which public money – which should be going into public services – is pumped into tax-avoiding private profits, especially to investment funds (usually based in offshore tax havens) and to banks. (For more information see: https://peoplevsbartspfi.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/413/)
Further, in the light of the Cole Edinburgh Independent Schools Inquiry[i] and subsequent investigations have shown that at least 30% of Scottish PPP/NPD schools have structural and fire defects:
- To pledge to ensure that local authorities and health trusts carry out thorough and intrusive inspections across their PFI estates, the costs of inspections to be borne by the private contractor: the provision of safe functioning buildings is at the core of contracts and the unitary payments being made.
What Can You Do?
You don’t have to wait for politicians to act on your behalf to demand answers and reassurance on the state of your public buildings, or to ask questions about where public money is being spent, where taxes are being paid (or not) and who is profiting.
Email your councillors and all candidates in your constituency, and ask questions at hustings:
Are the candidates aware of the disastrous effect of PFI projects in this constituency?
Are the candidates aware that PFI schemes have been described by a Conservative MP as “one of the costliest experiments in public policy making ever attempted”[ii]?
Are the candidates aware that many of the firms investing in PFIs are registered in off-shore tax havens like Guernsey and Jersey? Will they therefore accept that PFIs need to be ended now and all future public infrastructure investment be funded from tax revenue or government borrowing, which is currently very cheap?
Are the candidates aware that despite numerous examples of serious fire safety and structural defects being identified in PFI built public buildings across the UK and across sectors, there have been no calls for systematic investigations and inspections to ensure that these costly buildings are even safe for public use and fit for purpose? Given that the inspections across Scottish schools in the wake of the Edinburgh Schools PFI scandal have revealed defects in at least 30% of PPP-built schools, will candidates agree that problems on this scale should not be ignored and a thorough inspection audit of all public buildings must now take place?
NATIONAL SAFETY AUDIT
People vs PFI are calling for a National Safety Audit and as part of that will be coordinating a Citizens’ Audit of local authority accounts this year. If you are interested in being involved or finding out more get in touch [email protected] Our website will be updated shortly with more information
[i] Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools, John Cole, February 2017
[ii] Jesse Norman (2012) After PFI Centre for Policy Studies