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THE PRIVATE Finance Initiative (PFI) is handing billions of pounds of public money in profits to private companies. Despite a 2:1 vote at Labour Party conference in favour of a review, New Labour is accelerating the handover of essential public services to private vultures.
Cllr Dave Nellist, Socialist Group leader, Coventry city council
At the conference, Tony Blair said: "I don't care who builds them. This isn't the betrayal of public services - it's their renewal". New Labour, he said, was "putting power in the hands of the parent or patient".
Rubbish! PFI puts power in the hands of the spivs and shareholders. It's a series of Enrons in the making.
Three days after Blair's speech, schools minister David Miliband revealed that the government is now planning the rebuilding or refurbishment of all 3,780 secondary schools in the country.
All schools maintenance will be transferred to private companies, in a series of PFI deals that could be worth £45 billion over the next 10 years.
Earlier this year one PFI giant, Balfour Beatty, boasted of 18% a year profit from PFI deals. Across the board that's billions of pounds going in profits that could provide better services, more jobs and decent wages and conditions.
Even one of the Tory architects of PFI, former Chancellor Norman Lamont, now says that PFI "looks in the short term cheaper but in the long run is likely to be much, much more expensive".
The government's own architecture watchdog has warned that many of the 30 PFI schools already built are like "sheds without windows"; small with too little natural light. Many of the hospitals and schools built under PFI could be "obsolete" before the 25 years of the contract is finished.
What is really needed is not a review, but action to force the government to halt all current PFI proposals.
A new, mass workers' party urgently needs to be built to fight to return to public ownership and democratic control all those services in hospitals, schools, roads, prisons, transport etc that have been privatised through PFI.
Contracts are due to be signed on 15 October to demolish Coventry's two NHS hospitals and replace them with a single PFI hospital with less doctors, less nurses, less beds and in a location (on the outskirts of the city) which nobody in Coventry wants.
Local Socialist Party members have campaigned long and hard against the plans. For 10 years we've collected signatures on weekly Saturday stalls - a massive 150,000 people have signed, three times bigger than the previous largest petition in the history of Coventry.
10 years ago the local health authority planned to modernise both our NHS hospitals for £57 million. Now the project is due to cost £350 million, possibly the biggest PFI rip-off in Britain! Somebody, somewhere, is making huge profits out of ill-health in Coventry. It stinks!
In The Socialist 11 October 2002: