Talk of PFI puts me in mind of the occasion when, upon returning to primary school in the New Year, one of my cohort airily announced that he had received a sweet-making machine for Christmas.
We were agog.
The prospect of a limitless supply of sweets, unfettered by the ineffable agenda of one’s parents was a heady one. How did it work? We were dying to know.
‘Well,’ he explained, his face contorted with the effort of recollection. ‘You put sweets in at the top…’
At which point I felt that I had spotted the flaw in the whole concept, especially when he seemed unclear as to whether one need also insert sweets in the bottom.
Public services are still funded from the same pool of tax revenue. No more money is actually injected in to the system by PPP. Under the publicly owned system you have, theoretically, an organisation who's raison d'etre is to provide the optimum level of service at the most sustainable cost and value for taxpayers' money. Under a privately owned system, you have an organisation who's raison d'etre is to divert the greatest amount feasible of taxpayers' money into it's shareholders' pockets. Under the public system, a provider must fund from their budget facilities, staff, development and contingencies. The Private system must extract - from the same amount of money – all of the aforementioned, with the addition of a dividend to shareholders and inflated private sector Directors' salaries. The maths is not hard: something has to be squeezed to achieve this and, if reports of poor hygeine maintenance in our hospitals are to be believed, we can see this happening already.
Even if the government were now to grant a cash transfusion to our anaemic public services, it would only be after 'investors' had hollow fangs sunk firmly into their deepest veins.