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PFI bail-out gets luke-warm reception

The Treasury’s promise to prop up struggling PFI projects won a luke-warm reception from the RIBA, which would rather see direct government investment

Annouced yesterday (3 March), the Treasury proposals make extra funds available to 110 PFI projects stuck in the pipeline, safeguarding the £13 billion of public money already invested in the schemes.

‘These projects will create jobs and support the economy, as well as delivering vital infrastructure that local communities need,’ said chief secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper. ‘Where the private markets aren’t working properly, it’s right that the Government should act to get things moving.’

RIBA president Sunand Prasad welcomed the move but suggested the government should move away from the PFI model. ‘The RIBA has been calling on the government to act to ensure that public sector projects continue and we believe [this] announcement should ensure these crucial projects do go ahead,’ he said.

‘However, we believe that direct exchequer funding coupled with reform of the procurement process would be a far more effective method of getting the work flowing, while actually improving quality and speed and managing risk. We need designs for thousands of buildings and we have the architects and engineers ready to do it.’

Projects eligible for Treasury support include £2.4 billion of school upgrades, the Southmead Hospital Redevelopment in Bristol and Victoria Hospital in Fife.

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