A briefing on the Private Finance Initiative
August 2005, issued by UNISONScotland for branches
3.5 x cost = 'good value' for airport buyout
The saga of Inverness Airport has demonstrated yet again the
financial folly of PFI after the Scottish Executive agreed to
buy out the contract for an estimated £25m.
Taxpayers will be paying more than 3.5 times the £9.6m cost of
building the new terminal, as the publicly owned Highlands and
Islands Airports (HIAL) has already paid £8.5m to the developers.
Nicol Stephen MSP, then transport minister, announced in mid-June
that a deal had been agreed in principle with the owner Infrastructure
He said the buyout represented "good value for money".
This was because the controversial PFI deal charged HIAL £3 for
every passenger-and passenger numbers have risen dramatically
with the advent of low cost flights.
The contract had 19 years to run and passenger numbers at Inverness
have already risen from 337,000 in 1998 to 700,000, with further
Mr Stephen added: "It would be even more expensive to continue
to fund this deal."
It was envisaged that the cost of passenger charges would be
offset by a rise in landing charges, but the growth of low cost
no frills carriers means airport operators now rely more on retail
concession and parking income. In Inverness this goes to the contractor.
I2 is owned by Barclays Bank and Societe Generale.
Bridging The Gap
In December Mr Stephen ended the controversial tolls on the Skye
Bridge after agreeing to pay £27m to buy out that contract.
The Executive said if the buyout did not happen, it would need
to provide £18m in subsidy over the contract's remaining
eight years and that tolls would cost drivers a further £20m.
Campaigners demanded a public inquiry, arguing that the bridge
had cost the public purse over £90m, when the developers said
it cost £25m to build.
The Skye Bridge was the UK's first PFI contract and the
toll charges were the highest in Europe.
Despite conceding that neither Inverness Airport, nor the Skye
Bridge PFI schemes had provided value for money, the minister
said that PFI would continue.
Labour leaders face PFI quiz
UNISON is to intensify campaigning against PFI and will make
it a key question to Labour leadership candidates when Tony Blair
steps down - said General Secretary, Dave Prentis.
He hit out against PFI at the UNISON annual conference in Glasgow.
He accused government ministers of only listening to firms like
Balfour Beatty, which had invested £180m in PFI projects - now
worth £600m, and Carillion, whose £29m PFI investment is now valued
Dave told journalists that candidates for the Labour leadership
would be questioned by UNISON on three key tests: their views
on PFI and the introduction of competition and markets in public
UNISON, along with other unions, is part of the electoral college
which will elect the next leader.
Mr Prentis said: "We are the biggest affiliated union to the
Labour party. We play a very big role in the formulation of policy.
"We have established a clear policy on PFI and we will want to
know the position of any prospective leader before we cast our
Another call for ERI enquiry
The Scottish Executive should launch an inquiry into the controversial
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary PFI scheme.
That is one of the calls from Edinburgh City Council's community
services scrutiny panel in a report which found planning and development
failures and made 12 recommendations.
Councillors said: "The new hospital is regarded as the flagship
of PFI ventures, yet there still exist serious concerns about
the underlying planning assumptions and financial constraints.
In particular, the debates about the overall capacity of the ERI,
linked with the (non) provision of 'step-down' facilities, bed
numbers and delayed discharge."
They concluded there had been a failure to deliver the Full Business
Case on which the new hospital was based, particularly the provision
of community based services. Original assumptions on bed numbers
didn't provide sufficient flexibility to cope with changes, including
falling numbers of care home places and other pressures causing
Despite this, Consort Healthcare, operators of the £184m ERI,
has asked for an extra £1.1m a year following a benchmarking exercise.
The payment is on top of the £7.5m annual fee it receives from
NHS Lothian for services including portering and security and
NHS Lothian is fighting the claim, worth £30m over the life of
the contract. Health managers went to the Court of Session in
May to block the demand and may return there if negotiations fail.
UNISON's Tom Waterson, branch chairman for Lothian Health, said
if Consort win it would prove there has been "no risk transfer
whatsover" to the private sector.
£5.7bn cost of Scottish deals
PFI contracts in Scotland are currently worth £5.7 billion.
The Scottish Executive's Financial Partnerships Unit website
lists over £2.7b worth of done deals (signed and operational),
along with £3b worth of future deals.
The site details the "substantial Public Private Partnerships
investment within Scotland" by status, sector and type, with
local authorities, water & sewerage, then health by far the
largest sectors, within done deals.
The capital value of the done deals shows £1.2b worth of local
authority projects, with water & sewerage projects worth £654m
and health projects totalling almost £600m.
There are 26 local authority projects classed as future deals,
worth a total of nearly £2b, of which £1.88b are for schools.
A further £950m is the capital value of the 22 health projects
which are future deals.
Full information is on the website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Finance/18232/13368
Scots maintain opposition to private profits from
A new survey has confirmed that Scots are overwhelmingly against
schools and hospitals being run by private companies for profit.
The YouGov poll for UNISON found that 89% of Scots believe public
services such as hospitals and schools should not be run for profit.
And 90% agreed that in principle public services should be run
by the government or local authorities, not private companies.
This follows similar figures in a poll after the previous General
Scottish Minister won't allow fair comparisons despite
the 'wheels falling off' PFI
THE Scottish Executive will not follow John Prescott's lead
in reforming PFI grants to councils to create a fairer 'level
playing field' between PFI and conventional capital investment.
UNISON wrote to Finance Minister Tom McCabe to ask whether he
planned to hold a consultation on the issue similar to one run
south of the border last year by the Office of the Deputy Prime
Mr McCabe said that there are 'no immediate plans'
to review the system of funding local authority PPP projects.
Dave Watson, UNISON Scottish Organiser, said: "If PFI is
so wonderful why are ministers so afraid of creating a level playing
field to enable meaningful value for money assessments to be carried
Observers are beginning to note increasingly different approaches
between England & Wales and Scotland, as PFI failures mount
up north and south of the border.
The Sunday Herald on 10 July said in a business leader column
"the wheels are beginning to come off Private Finance Initiatives.
What was once one of the cornerstones of New Labour's conversion
to market solutions in the 1990s is now increasingly being seen
as inflexible, cumbersome and overly expensive."
The newspaper's business pages featured an article which
highlighted reasons why UK ministers may be cooling towards PFI,
including the ruling by the Office for National Statistics that
capital spending under PFI will have to be shown in the public
sector's net debt figures.
Financial Editor Ian Fraser asked: "Do all these signals
mean that Tony Blair's government has fallen out of love
But for Scotland he concluded that: "Despite the problems
and views of some Westminster ministers, the enthusiasm of First
Minister Jack McConnell and Finance Minister Tom McCabe for PFI/PPP
shows little sign of abating."
Fife schools to cost four times build cost.
Fife Council schools PFI could cost the council £161m for schools
which cost only £40m to build. That is the conclusion of a UNISON
analysis of the Full Business Case (FBC) for the Fife PPP1 project
covering Dunfermline schools.
The financial justification for PFI schemes is based on a so-called
'value for money' exercise in the FBC which compares
the likely PFI costs with a notional Public Sector Comparator
UNISON looked at the calculations in the FBC and found that the
PSC is £64.8m, while the cost of the PFI is £68.1m. So the PFI
is costing taxpayers £3.275m more than if it was built using conventional
The PSC has been 'adjusted' to £73.5m by adding in
a 'risk transfer' figure of £8.6m. However, thisfigure
is entirely speculative, and the very real operational risks -
over 25 years - still fall on the council. These include changes
to educational requirements, legislation and demand (pupil numbers).
The contractors' alleged risks are almost all related to
construction, something which would be built into a conventional
contract anyway. They will almost certainly look at refinancing
the deal after a few years, pocketing a further profit, and this
has been anticipated in s27 of the contract.
If the FBC revenue figures for the unitary charge of £6.443m
are sustained into the contract then the council will pay the
contractor (at today's prices) around £161m for schools which
cost only £40m to build.
The Scottish Executive is also subsidising the scheme in the
first full year with £3.68m in revenue costs.
Little stories that add up to big costs for the public
Legislation flagged up in the last Private Finance Illusion has
been passed by MSPs. The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland)
Bill won most attention for the ban on smoking in public places,
but it also included provision for joint ventures. This means
Scotland will soon see Local Improvement Finance Trusts (LIFTs)
bringing private investment into primary care and joint premises
developments, such as GP surgeries. LIFT is for smaller-scale
joint ventures than PFI schemes and the law change will allow
ministers to form, or take part in forming, companies which would
provide facilities such as goods, premises, equipment, vehicles
etc to NHS bodies.
And then there were 10
ARGYLL and Bute's £75m education project is now to build
only 10 schools, seven of which will be on joint campuses. The
council had originally planned the project to cover 29 schools,
but this was cut by 12 last summer and has now been cut by a further
seven. The council said it needed to obtain value for money and
the geography was a problem with schools spread across a wide
Tanks, but no tanks
The Ministry of Defence has pulled the plug on a planned £1billion
PFI contract, saying it did not provide acceptable value for money.
Defence procurement minister Lord Drayson said the 30-year contract
with Landmark Training Consortium to provide training on tanks
and armoured vehicles would not go ahead. Instead more "conventional
procurement strategies" will be used.
A planned PFI hospital in Paddington has been scrapped after
£14m of public money had already been spent. The costs included
fees of £7.8m to private companies. An investigation will try
to establish why so much time, money and effort was wasted.
GEORGE MONBIOT, environmental activist and writer, comments regularly
on the PFI financial scandals. He wrote in the Guardian in June:
"How much longer can this farce carry on? Everywhere the
chickens released by the government's private finance initiative
are not so much coming home to roost as crashing into the henhouse
and sliding down the wall in a heap of blood and feathers."
Relying on senior staff
Reliance - which has the controversial private contract to transport
Scottish prisoners to and from court - has seen five senior staff
quit, with reports of likely further resignations. Campbell O'Connell,
operations director, and a former police chief superintendent,
will go in September. He set up the firm's prisoner escort
system, which was widely criticised after a number of high-profile
escapes. Four other senior staff have also resigned.
Water PFI burden means increased threat to safety
Scotland's water industry is being forced to make efficiency
savings which are unachievable without serious risks to the safety
of staff and the public. UNISON has warned that the financial
strain is not being helped by the "massive burden" of
Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Utilities,
said that the 'magic circle' of proposed investment,
with little or no charge increases, showed that the Water Industry
Commissioner is "wedded to an economic theory that has little
to do with reality. Scottish Water inherited a massive burden
of costly PFI schemes on 25-30 year contracts . They are contracted
to pay contractors £112m per year (for 30 years), for assets that
cost only £549m to build."
The WIC has said that the contracts inherited by Scottish Water
were good value for money when they were concluded (between 1996
and 2001), but that "improvements in Scottish Water's
performance have made it less certain that the PPP contracts represent
value for money to customers today."
He has recommended that PFI operations are brought back in-house.
For more information see 'It's Scotland's Water!'
on the UNISONScotland website http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/scotlandswater.html