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Budget details reveal good news for PFI design

The government has further demonstrated its growing belief that the PFI procurement method must be reformed to integrate design at an early stage.

In a document - called the Value for Money Assessment Exercise- released yesterday to coincide with the 2006 budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown's mandarins wrote that more design needs to be carried out up front.

Observers hope that this represents the adoption of the 'Intelligent PFI' model, as promoted by RIBA president Jack Pringle.

If this is the case, the procurement model will be reformed so that the bulk of architectural work is carried out before the client - be it a hospital or local education authority - starts the search for a consortium to build and manage the building.

Unsurprisingly Pringle welcomed the publication of the document. 'The Treasury has clearly listened to the RIBA and acted to improve the standard of design and procurement of future PFI projects,' he said.

'Poor design must be tackled head-on if we are to maximise the value of this major investment in the nation's health and education.

'I am pleased that they have acted so swiftly and decisively on the issues and proposals we identified. We will continue to work closely with the Treasury to help develop these proposals through to a satisfactory delivery,' he added.

However, the same document has also triggered fury from many other anti-PFI campaigners, because it trails the possible expansion of the initiative into contracts worth a further £26 billion.

Long-term critic John McDonnell MP, chairman of the Labour Representation Committee, said: 'What was missing from the Chancellor's statement was any explanation of the Treasury paper produced to accompany the Budget, which sets out a huge expansion of the disastrous PFI policy.

'This staggering £26 billion expansion of PFIs across 200 public sector projects represents the next stage in the government's accelerating privatisation of our public services.

'Millions of pounds' worth of taxpayers' money is already being wasted to line the pockets of private companies. Private companies are being allowed to bleed our public services dry because of the government's love affair with the market,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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