NLGN adds its voice to debate over Audit Commission review of PFI projects
16 January, 2003

With the launch of the Audit Commission’s comprehensive review of schools built using the Private Finance Initiative scheme, Dan Corry, Executive Director of independent think-tank, the New Local Government Network (NLGN) today said:

“The Audit Commission report is welcome, offering a thorough and independent look at the workings of established PFI schemes for schools and reminding us of the need for PFI to be done properly if it is to be effective. It would be useful to have similar studies in other areas of the public sector – to bring clarity, help clear the air and ensure that future PFI projects are carried out as effectively as possible. Such studies would probably reveal that most local government PFI schemes are working reasonably well. ‘Success’ of course contrasts with the handful of high-profile examples within other sectors that are evidently not working.”

“PFI will play an important role in helping deliver good public services in Britain, although the Audit Commission is right to say that in certain circumstances other forms of procurement and Public Private Partnership may be more appropriate than strict PFI.”

Referring to the Audit Commission’s observations on how PFI is currently used, and how this might be improved, Mr Corry added:

“Some of the conclusions from the study should come as no surprise. PFI is not magic – it is not about pulling rabbits from a hat. The basic rules that must be followed to produce a good outcome still apply – a client who knows what they are doing; proper consultation with users in drawing up the specification; a contract that is properly managed; designers given the ability and money to come up with innovation and sound design; contractors that have a public service ethos not a confrontational one. If PFI is simply seen as a way of getting public sector building done on the cheap and off balance sheet then it is less likely that such procedures will be followed.”

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NLGN is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities.