The Truth About PFI

ALLYSON POLLOCK of University of London’s School of Public Policy has produced many articles and reports criticising the government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Mick Griffiths (Wakefield and Pontefract Hospitals UNISON, personal capacity)

Government spin doctors try to discredit her views, claiming ‘inaccuracy’ and using ‘outdated data’. However the PFI procurement press uses the cloak of “commercial confidentiality” to hide information from the public. Allyson Pollock’s reports all use whatever statistics and consultation documents are publicly available.

Close scrutiny exposes the government’s total faith in all things private. The PFI process is deliberately over-complex. Goalposts are continually moving as the government tries to keep one step in front of its critics and make sure that all routes lead to the private finance solution.

Allyson Pollock has been thrown off the Commons Health Select Committee ‘independent’ inquiry team while PFI proponents stay on the team!

Despite claims that private sector brings efficiency, in almost all PFI deals, cost differences are negligible (usually between 0.05% and 0.1%!), The overall cost to the public purse is far greater due to the massive increase in costs to NHS revenue budgets over the 30-60 year lifetime of PFI contracts.

The NHS Finance Act legalises guaranteed monopoly profit returns to the private sector (usually between 15% and 25%). Coupled with the bank’s interest charges on private capital loans, PFI schemes cost four or five times what publicly funded development would.

The end result is fewer beds, fewer staff and much less revenue available for actual services. As Allyson Pollock says, it’s “a policy without rationale”.

Unacceptable strings

LABOUR’S CLAIM that the public don’t care who owns and runs services is a joke. Try talking about “efficiency gains”, “value for money” and successful risk transfer to victims of rail disasters!

New Labour are again caught lining fat cats’ pockets at the expense of vital services. Despite Gordon Brown’s fanfare of increased NHS spending, it comes with unacceptable strings attached. We are to be further taxed to make private sector parasites richer.

Health workers know that private profiting from illness will inevitably be detrimental to the improvement of the NHS.

Public sector unions need to gear up their campaigns to expose the mythology of Public/Private Partnerships. Trade disputes to protect health workers’ pay and conditions are not enough in themselves.

NHS trade union activists locally and regionally need to organise a co-ordinated campaign to pressure national union leaders into leading a political and industrial campaign linked to local communities.

In Wakefield, we have commissioned an Allyson Pollock report on our proposed PFI scheme and are using its analysis to push for a publicly funded scheme. As a fall-back position we are at least hoping to win a “better value” case for the in-house preference for a large majority of support services staff.

It’s now time for a serious national campaign to challenge New Labour’s love affairs with the profiteers. The union leaders though, leaning towards company unionism, offer illusions in partnerships with our enemy.

UNISON’s “Positively Public” campaign can only succeed if it exposes New Labour, severs once and for all our “political link” and campaigns for a new mass workers’ party to fight for the international socialist alternative to global capitalism.

Allyson Pollock’s latest report available on request – ring 01924 212335.