In the early nineties, I was approached by various large private companies – notably civil engineering and building contractors - to provide consultancy advice and negotiating skills training relating to the Public Finance Initiative (PFI).
I waited confidently for the other side of the PFI equation – the public service and local authorities – to approach me for similar advice and training. There were no enquiries. I spent some money on marketing efforts to involve such bodies, but still no interest whatsoever was shown. Since it takes two to tango, it was clear that the so-called public/private partnership was going to be a very unequal one, and that the potential for a major rip-off of the taxpayer existed.
Over the last six months, I have owed my life on four occasions to the NHS – to St. John’s Hospital in Livingston and to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The new RIE is a wonderful, state-of-the-art facility, matched by dedicated and superbly professional staff at all levels, and many patients owe their lives and the quality of their lives to its existence.
It was with horror and disgust therefore that I had my worst fears confirmed about the operation of the PFI, under the previous Labour/LibDem administration in Holyrood, by the following extract from the Edinburgh West Branch SNP newsletter -
True cost of PFI revealed
Figures from the Treasury, published by the Scottish Parliament, have revealed the staggering cost of Labour's Private Finance Initiative to Scotland's National Health Service. Over the next 30 years, nearly £6.7 billion will leave the NHS in repayments to banks and private operators for PFI projects. The astonishing £6.7 billion of repayments under Labour’s “buy now pay later” policy covers 27 capital projects with an estimated value of only £1.28 billion and comes after £1 billion of repayments have already been made.
In a flagrant example of Labour’s mismanagement, the taxpayer will pay seven times more for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary than its original capital cost of £260 million. By last year, that sum had already been paid - but the contracts mean we will keep paying for it for a further 32 years! By 2034, when the contract expires, taxpayers will have paid a jaw-dropping £1.5 billion for the Royal Infirmary alone.