Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Secret PFI deals choke NHS

A scheme which began under Major;  enthusiastically followed by Brown; and is now maintained by Osborne, is one of the reasons why the NHS is in trouble. It is not common knowledge and it is a national scandal. The whole thing has been kept off official accounts, which is a disgrace in itself, for spurious reasons of ‘commercial confidentiality.’ 
Each Chancellor mortgages the future while looking good, funding major public works (schools, hospitals etc). It shows just how similar the parties are in their approach to openness and transparency, i.e. not at all. They are all complicit, deceitful and silent. 
Private Corporations, using very clever lawyers and accountants, contractually lock in swathes of the public sector. They ensure serious penalty clauses are built into each contract to make defaulting on the debt prohibitive. It also means that the building does not belong to the school or hospital. Repairs, complaints, refurbishment and alterations all take much longer to deliver. 
The off-balance sheet PFI (Private Finance Initiative) is a deeply flawed policy, costs untold millions and is largely kept secret ‘for commercial reasons.’ Studies that have managed to gain access to some details reveal that a new hospital costs at least three times its actual price. This situation is magnified thousands of times across the country. It is clearly bonkers but the appeal of it lies in the fact that it penalises future generations. Current and recent governments look better than they are, which is saying a lot when their mediocrity is taken into account. Hospital Trusts end up being locked into contracts which will take them years to pay off. This obviously reduces the amount they can spend on running their Trust. Simply to stand still in budget terms means that many trusts will have to make cuts to meet their repayments. 
The Tories and Tory-lite NewLabour should be ashamed. As should the LibDems. Good governance it is not. 

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