Tue 17 Feb 2004
Failed PFI Firm asked to comment on new PFI schemes
Failed PFI company Ballast Wiltshier has been asked by the Scottish Executive
to comment on new proposals to hand over primary health care centres, hospitals
and joint facilities with local councils, to private companies.
collapsed in October last year leaving a trail of devastation in East Lothian
schools. Falkirk Council's window replacement programme was halted and Renfrewshire
was left with only one bidder for its controversial schools PFI scheme.
East Lothian sub-contractors have gone bust with local workers thrown out of their
jobs and other contractors have called for an investigation by the DTI.
Watson (UNISON's Scottish Organiser - Policy) said: "It is astonishing that the
Scottish Executive should be seeking the views of a company that has wreaked such
chaos in Scotland's public services. They have clearly learnt nothing from the
East Lothian experience. Instead our health centres, hospitals and social work
provision are to be laid open to the very same risk".
The proposals are
set out in Consultation on the use of Joint Ventures to deliver primary care/joint
premises. Ballast are included in the list of consultees (P16). The plans involve
establishing joint venture companies to run health centres and other joint care
facilities with local councils. The legislation will give powers to extend the
scheme to hospitals.
Apart from the involvement of Ballast, UNISON will
be highlighting other flaws in the scheme including:
* It will be limited
to large schemes (£20m minimum) because the private sector is not interested in
small scale local facilities. This will drive the centralisation of health and
social care or distort priorities by having to group disparate schemes.
The paper claims that the partners (including NHS Boards and councils) will share
profits. But, the public sector will hold only a small minority stake (typically
20%). Private contractors to the joint venture walk away with the real profits.
* This means the public will see very little return for the real risks
as the Ballast experience has demonstrated. As with all PFI schemes far from providing
a flexible solution, the public sector is tied into 30 year plus contracts at
inflated prices. Instead of transferring risk to private companies the public
sector always has to pick up the pieces.
Dave Watson said: "Instead of
taking Scotland further down this failed route the Executive should follow the
recommendations of their own auditors, Audit Scotland, and provide a genuine level
playing field between public borrowing and PPP. No public authority willingly
wastes taxpayers money on PPP when they can borrow more cheaply themselves".
Notes for Editors: The Scottish Executive consultation paper can
be accessed at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/health/cjvpc-00.asp
These plans are partly based on an English NHS scheme called Local Improvement
Finance Trust (LIFT).
A UNISON guide to this scheme can be accessed from
the UNISON UK website at: http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/13620.pdf
The details re the collapse of Ballast Wiltshier can be found on the UNISONScotland
PFI Illusion Briefing for January. On the website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/pfijan04.html.
For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Org.
- Policy and Info) 0845 355 0845 (w) 07787 558410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications
Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)