openDemocracyUK

A Tory message for Ed Miliband to take further: Jesse Norman MP’s PFi Rebate goes live

The Conservative MP, Jesse Norman, this week launches his PFi Rebate campaign, a proposal to raise £500 million by reducing PFi repayments by 0.05%
Oliver Huitson
2 December 2010

From across the political spectrum, PFi is once again emerging on the agenda. Last week, George Monbiot’s article in the Guardian argued for “odious” PFi debts to be abandoned outright. The Conservative MP, Jesse Norman, this week launches his PFi Rebate campaign, a proposal to raise £500 million by reducing PFi repayments by 0.05%. Savings of this size would certainly be useful, but considering the size of the liabilities in question the figure lacks ambition. To resize our PFi obligations into anything remotely “fair”, savings must be in the billions. 

As we reported last month, the British public is committed to repaying over £260bn for buildings valued at under £60bn. To make public projects attractive to private investors, many have been tailored to deliver unnecessarily large returns guaranteed by the taxpayer. One PFi project saw returns of over 600%. Wherever you look in the grubby world of PFi, exorbitant profits are all but guaranteed.

Writing in the Mail, Norman cites the now familiar story of public buildings being charged astronomical fees for simple maintenance work and additions to the building. To have a TV aerial fitted, Hereford County hospital was charged £963. Still, compared to £333 to change a light bulb this seems almost reasonable. Similar tales of eye-watering maintenance charges have been another regular feature of the PFi saga.

Before any talk of private contractors benignly agreeing to cutbacks, the details of all contracts and maintenance fees should be made public. As the Conservatives have repeatedly explained, there is no accountability without transparency, yet PFi contracts still remain firmly behind closed doors, exempted from Freedom of Information enquiries on grounds of “commercial confidentiality”. Once the precise details of our commitments are in the public domain, the sort of scandalous charges Norman mentions would make easy pickings for renegotiations.

It is to Norman’s credit that he is addressing the issue of PFi, but £500 million would represent little more than a token gesture when considered against the size of the public’s liabilities and the appalling value for money many of these deals represent. Across the floor, if Ed Miliband is serious about turning the page on New Labour, a show of responsibility for PFi and a willingness to repair some of the damage would be welcome indeed.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData