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Private hands off public services
PRIVATE FINANCE Initiative (PFI) deals have always been extremely profitable for private contractors. But recent reports show what a bad deal it's been for public services such as the NHS and how much greedy private companies use it to fill up their coffers.
Look at hospital building. The Norfolk and Norwich (N&N) Hospital was rebuilt under the PFI. It was supposed to cost £229 million but the full price has now been calculated at £1.16 billion over the 35 years of N&N's contract with private consortium Octagon Healthcare.
Stories like this have convinced the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) that PFI schemes cost health trusts more than any other former government schemes. The ACCA report looked into N&N and 12 other hospitals.
Now the National Audit Office (NAO) want to look more closely at how many PFI projects are being sold off between contractors, yielding huge profits.
PFI schemes worth a capital value of £32 billion are now up and running and PFI investments worth some £700 million have been bought and sold since 1999, mostly over the past two years. All this profit goes to the fat-cat capitalists while the public sector - the source of these profits - gets nothing except their old rip-off deal.
The NAO suggests some form of windfall tax on such profits. But the government disagrees with even this minor palliative. New Labour say that PFI is the only show in town - that there is no alternative.
Unions in the NHS and other public services must fight for the abolition of the PFI and similar privatisation methods. We need public services fully funded from taxation that can provide good quality care to everyone.
These new reports show that the NHS would save enormous sums of money by ditching PFI, and ending the building contractors' profiteering. We should make sure that the PFI profiteers pay for the growing funding problems of the NHS, not the patients and staff who carry the can at present.
In The Socialist 4 December 2004:
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