The 8.10am item on BBC Radi 4 Today is a wonderful example of the BBC doing everything possible to defend the previous Labour government’s many follies – in this case the poorly negotiated PFI schemes that now cause so much misery in the NHS. Humphrys was on top form and before we even got to the interview with Andrew Lansley, there was a set up interview with  John Appelby of the Kinh’s Fund who insisted that in the “greater scheme” of things, the “few” billions added by PFI “investment” were nothing to worry about. Cue Lansley and an onslaught from Humphrys which demonstrated both a woeful lack of economics (unsurprising coming from a denizen of State largesse) and a real determination to try and defend Brown and Balls. It would be touching were it not so blatantly biased. Oddly enough, although I have waited for almost 4 hours there is STILL no link to this part of their programme, the inefficiency is staggering.

Following on from this, a Biased BBC reader notes;

“The BBC are going big on the disastrous PFI contracts which will cost us Billions extra. I looked at the comments on the story but was surprised at the comment which was the ‘Editors Pick’. 

9. Tony
“I have huge admiration for our health service, to my mind one of the best in the world. We can argue and complain about the past funding issues for ever more. I as a tax payer would love to pay a little more tax to keep it out of private hands but whilst it remains a political issue regardless of political colour, nothing will change. Lets all pay a bit more for something we all rely on.”

This was in vast contrast with the main body of comments.

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8 Responses to PFI REVISIONISM

  1. Umbongo says:

    Lansley – for the first time in my hearing – actually put forward his case without allowing Humphrys to stop him actually talking:  Lansley insisted on talking through Humphrys’ interruption.  Humphrys while, laughingly, admitting how unusual such lèse-majesté was didn’t stop trying to rubbish Lansley’s claim that it was Labour wot dunnit.


  2. Jeremy Clarke says:

    PFIs are estimated to be costing the British tax-payer around £200 – 250 billion.

    That is quite “a few” extra billions.

    Editor’s Pick ‘Tony’ is an tit because the NHS is, increasingly, in private hands and he paying more tax for the privilege. Does he realise who built and who runs those shiny new skoolz’n’hospitals, those new prisons and new government buildings, those snazzy new IT projects?

    Come to think of it, does the ‘Editor’ who ‘picked’ Tony’s comment know this?


  3. My Site (click to edit) says:

    Robert Brown; Yes, heard that interview, thought that Lansley did well, mentioning that the mess was presided over by Brown and Balls must have elicited a sharp intake of breath from the BBC, especially Naughtie if he heard it! Off topic a bit, just read on Guido that a pamphlet is to be published tomorrow by the Centre for Policy Studies entitled ‘Guilty Men’ by Peter Oborne and Francis Weaver naming and blaming the individuals and institutions, BBC among them, that were cheerleaders and advocates for the Euro. Must place my order. Chau.


  4. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Don’t forget how PFIs also contributed to the construction bubble.  And that Gordon Brown shiftted it all off the budget so he could keep pouring money into it.


  5. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Top Editor’s pick at the moment:  
    As a hospital consultant I spoke out against PFI when first introduced by John Major et al. It was a con trick to balance government books, and we were fleeced by business consortia. They were given loans at government interest rates (which they loaned out at high rates to make more profit), charged twice the price for similar builds, and often produced inadequate structures not fit for purpose.  
    Not bad, at first glance.  There’s another one further down along the same lines, although unfortunately I see why the Editor picked them:  they both blame the private sector for exploiting the scheme.  So in the minds of Beeboids, even if it was a bad idea from the start because of budget concerns, the only reason PFIs actually were bad is because of the actions of the evil private sector.  Well, who chose the companies and who authorized the whole thing?  *sound of crickets chirping*
    The article itself sings from the same hymn sheet.  PFIs have saddled hospitals with bills they can’t afford, all because the evil private sector exploited them.  This Narrative, while at least partially based in reality, is a wonderful smokescreen to allow the BBC to hide the fact that Mr. Brown shifted it all off the books so he could lie about his budget percentages.


  6. Roland Deschain says:

    Talking about increased costs of PFI is rather like comparing apples and pears.  You’re comparing the now known costs of PFI with the estimate of costs had the work been done by a public body.

    Fellow Edinburgh residents know only too well what frequently happens when public bodies take control of large capital projects.  Witness the Scottish Parliament, budgeted at £40 million in 1997 and finally completed in 2004 at over £400 million.  Or the trams project, budgeted at £498 million and now estimated at £770 million to complete only half the line, having f*cked up a good number of businesses whose customers couldn’t get to them past the roadworks.


    • It's all too much says:

      Ah but, Roland, the Edinburgh trams are a manifestation of the same problem as PFI.  the City of Edinburgh Council wrote an imbecilic contract with TIE, failed to check its own contract terms and TIE’s leagal team hammered CEC. Edinburgh couldn’t run a p up in the proverbial.  The problem was the contract.  PFI contracts are extraordinarily complex and the contractors exploit every loop hole – this and the fiancing are the issues.  As for the ‘Parliament’ building the original budget was a direct lie to get the scheme approved (there was a perfrectly servicable georgian building that had been kitted out as a parliament years ago.

      The issue here is government contracts PFI or not are generally
      a) badly specified
      b) Impossibly complex
      c) badly/not managed
      d) Tainted with ‘broader social objectives’ (pork barrel politics)

      PFI schemes do not contain the costs of a project, if the firm makes losses the ‘shell’ holding company will miraculously collapse and no one is liable.  If a bond is called in this has already been priced into the contract.  As a member of the public it is lose lose all round.  Specifically for Edinburgh residents – why did the council think that replacing one bus route with trams at an original cost of £498,000,000 was a good idea?  It is not possible to make even the most massaged business case balance for that sort of project.  The capital costs alone would mean each ticket should cost a tenner.  The project is an exercise in vain-glory and to hell with the costs. 

      These wretches should never be given access to the public purse.


  7. London Calling says:

    The bBC has been bigging up PFI as one of the stock pantomime villains, cast of thousands (along with bankers). Lots of false posturing, ignorance about where money comes from (magic, if you are a Beebdroid).
    A District General Hospital costs around £200m to build and kit out. The money has to come from somewhere, since as far as I know builders dont work for nothing, any more than NHS staff work for nothing. (Part of the public fantasy about the “free” NHS.)
    If you have a mortgage to buy your home, welcome to PFI – you already have one – is it “a con”? Of course not. On or off balance sheet is irrelevant. You want shiny new hospital, you pay for it.
    You borrow and pay interest (PFI), or Treasury borrows (they have the debt and pay interest) end of story.

    There is no “con” in PFI. Contracts are contracts. If the contract is badly specified that is down to the (often) useless people the NHS employ to specify it. They keep changing their minds what they want. They are complex, yes, but impossibly complex, not so. The affordability envelope is there constantly since the Health Economy always has to balance its books. Many NHS PFI contracts run smoothly and affordably. Hospitals that run into trouble are usually general management failures who blame PFI to hide it.
    bBC of course know nothing. Its all the fault of the private sector, who are evil.