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Date: Weds 24 October

ERI Contract release sets important precedent - UNISON

UNISON, the public service union which recently released a report* on the cost of PFI and the way that financial figures are kept from the public due to claimed commercial confidentiality, welcomed the decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner to order NHS Lothian to release the whole Edinburgh Royal infirmary PFI Contract. The union said that this would be an important precedent for other contract information.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said "This decision is good news and could be the first step to a return to transparency in public finances. We have consistently said that such bogus commercial confidentiality is being used to hide the rigged calculations used to justify PFI and PPP schemes. All the figures should be provided for public scrutiny."

"We also have a number of appeals to the Scottish Information Commissioner challenging attempts by public bodies to keep PFI/PPP financial information secret by citing demands by contractors. While this decision will help, it also shows how important it is to bring companies involved in PFI/PPP contracts under the scope of Scottish Freedom of Information legislation."

The report* "At What Cost" also lists immediate steps the Scottish Government could take to prevent further billions being wasted. Mr Watson added: "We want to see all existing contracts reviewed and no new PPP contracts approved. Scottish Government grants should be made available for all new capital projects on a proper level playing field basis, regardless of the method of procurement."


Notes to Editors:

1. The report, At What Cost, examines the Final Business Cases for 35 projects and extrapolates these key figures to the 129 current and planned projects. It finds that PFI/PPP could be costing Scottish taxpayers around £2.1 billion more than conventional funding. It is available at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/comms/atwhatcostoct07.pdf

2. An example of the problems in obtaining documents is detailed in the report (Note 16). Incredibly neither the Scottish Executive nor Scottish Water could provide a single Final Business Case for any of the nine water treatment projects, claiming they are 'not held'.

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409(m) Fiona Montgomery(Information Development officer) 0141 342 2852(w) Chris Bartter (Communications officer) 07715 583 729(m)