Jul 27, 2010

The U.K. having problems with its P3s


Britain, which led the charge for public private partnerships under both Conservative and Labour governments over the past decades, is now seeing problems with the projects.

This month the new coalition government cancelled the controversial Building Schools for the Future program.  Michael Gove, the Conservative Secretary of State for Education said the P3 school program had been hit by:

“massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy.”

He said: “There are some councils which entered the process six years ago which have only just started building new schools. Another project starting this year is three years behind schedule”

Earlier reports also suggest Britain’s National Health Service is having problems with the cost and inflexibility of P3 hospitals.  The Financial Times reported:

Traditionally, when spending is tough, NHS hospitals put maintenance on hold to retain doctors, nurses and other services.

But Nigel Edwards, head of policy for the NHS Confederation, said: “A hospital with a PFI scheme does not have that option. They are contractually bound to keep the maintenance up – and if you are spending 10 or 15 per cent on your buildings it means all the other efficiency and productivity gains you need have to come out of only 85 or 90 per cent of your budget.”

Not surprisingly, despite problems with the P3s, parents in areas where projects to replace substandard schools have been cancelled are furious.  They are even more furious because the government appears to be funding plans to convert schools to “academies” that can ignore national curriculum.  These academies were just one more form of privatization promoted by the Tony Blair’s Labour government.  With academies, companies and religious institutions invest in schools and get to control them.

The problems with these P3 projects in the U.K. are only coming to light years after they were initiated.  Here in BC, and in Alberta with its commitment to P3 schools, it gives us something to look forward to.

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