08:38 Tuesday 4th December 2012
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
RONNIE BARBOUR: The Chancellor George Osborne is to announce a change to the way private finance initiatives are run in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement. Last week the National Audit Office criticised the private finance scheme at Peterborough City Hospital. The NHS Trust which runs it had a £46 million deficit last year. The Government says the new scheme will be quicker, more transparent and that the taxpayer will now share in any profits. Let’s speak to Dr John Lister from the pressure group London Health Emergency, who wrote a report looking into Peterborough City Hospital. Dr John Lister, good morning to you.
JOHN LISTER: Good morning.
RONNIE BARBOUR: What changes is the Chancellor proposing?
JOHN LISTER: Well he’s proposing to basically remodel future PFI contracts in order to .. the Government’s going to inject some money into them. This is partly because they’ve been finding it difficult to raise the money for some of these projects, people not wanting to invest. And there are various other proposals to make the contracts slightly more flexible. Sadly for Peterborough’s point of view it’s not going to make any difference, because this is new contracts. It’s not revisiting the old ones, which were clearly defective.
RONNIE BARBOUR: What is your reaction to the changes then as they come through?
JOHN LISTER: Well I think it’s a really bad idea, because it actually suggests we’re going to have more PFIs, rather than actually address the fact this is a huge policy failure hatched up by the Tories, implemented by the last Government, and now apparently being rolled out again by the Coalition without learning anything really about the fact that all this is doing is giving the private sector a major slice of public assets, and a revenue stream funded from the taxpayer.
RONNIE BARBOUR: The positive side is they’re doing something about it.
JOHN LISTER: Well they’ve decided to do something about it, but what we really need is for them to do something about the existing schemes which are already there, and milking billions of pounds a year out of the NHS and from other public services.
RONNIE BARBOUR: It’s open to debate whether it would prevent a situation like Peterborough City Hospital happening, which as I said the Audit Office revealed last year was £46 million in deficit.
JOHN LISTER: Well sadly it’s too late to prevent it happening. The real question Peterborough people want to know, and I think many people in other areas hit by huge unaffordable PFIs, is what’s going to be done about the existing schemes. Are we going to continue this hemorrhage of cash out of the NHS to fund lavish profits and lifestyles for the shareholders of the PFI companies involved, or are we going to actually address this problem and realise it’s unaffordable and we can’t carry on like this? Peterborough’s run out of money. They have no money, and no agreement to actually fund the running of services in Peterborough as of the end of November.
RONNIE BARBOUT: What would you do?
JOHN LISTER: Well if I was the Chancellor I’d be looking very seriously at taking these schemes back into public ownership. Because otherwise we’re just constantly going to be forking out from the taxpayer to subsidise schemes which are rotten value for taxpayers.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Are they able to do that? Can they actually take it back into public ownership?
JOHN LISTER: The Government makes laws. They could put legislation through Parliament and change the arrangements for the existing contracts. I’m sure they could. Let’s get some legal minds working on our side, instead of constantly drawing up these contracts that appear to work for the interests of the private sector.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think this is going to end in tears, or is it going to be a positive result as George Osborne does announce these changes?
JOHN LISTER: Well sadly at the moment there’s no end to the tears. We’ve just got to wait until common sense prevails, and these schemes are actually dealt with to the interests of patients and taxpayers, who are actually wanting some real solutions.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Dr John Lister of the pressure group London Health Emergency, who wrote that report looking into Peterborough City Hospital’s PFI.