It seems that Polly was right about something (although, as usual she lied through her teeth in the course of getting there): the Tories really are going for Gordo and about fucking time too, frankly.
Following on from the pensions exposé, and Brown's aide attempting to
Gordon Brown has been accused of making false claims that his flagship scheme to secure private finance for public sector projects provides good value for money.
A study by the University of Edinburgh of the Treasury's statements about the success of the private finance initiative (PFI) found that the evidence for the claims to be "either non-existent or false".
No surprises there then. We all know that the PFI schemes are, in the main, expensive failures.
The attack follows criticism by the Confederation of British Industry that the Treasury minister Ed Balls, a close Brown ally, misrepresented its stance on the Chancellor's 1997 decision to abolish the pension funds' right to reclaim the tax deducted from share dividends.
Perhaps Eddie-Baby's position in any future Brown government is not looking so secure, eh?
After a few days on the defensive, Mr Brown will try to regain the initiative today by announcing a £20m grant to the United Nations Children's Fund to help maintain schooling in war zones and fragile states where education systems have broken down. It is part of his campaign to secure free education for the 80 million children who cannot go to school. Speaking at a conference in Scotland, he will urge other G7 countries to meet the commitments they made to the developing world at the Gleneagles summit in 2005.
Yeah? Giving away £20 million of our cash: cheers, Gordon. Well, I've already dealt with that load of old nonsense.
What about this PFI rubbish then?
Researchers at Edinburgh investigated the Treasury's claim that 88 per cent of PFI projects were delivered on time and within budget while most publicly funded projects (70 per cent) are delivered late and 73 per cent cost more than expected.
Of the five studies cited by the Treasury, they found two were based on National Audit Office reports which concluded it was not possible to judge how the procurement method affected the results. A third contained no comparative data and a fourth was withheld by the Treasury on grounds of "commercial confidentiality". The fifth report "artificially inflated" the cost of traditional public projects, according to the Edinburgh study.
Professor Allyson Pollock, who heads the university's Centre for International Public Health Policy, said: "Government ministers have repeatedly justified the controversial PFI policy in terms of its greater efficiency and value for money savings compared with traditional methods of public investment. It would appear that comparisons are rigged in favour of PFI and that Treasury policy is not evidence-based."
Of course not; PFI is important for one thing and one thing only: the capital expenditure, now amounting to about £90 billion, is kept off the Treasury's books. It means that Brown can keep spending whilst adhering to his "golden rule" (although, actually, the rule in question appears to be a fucking slide rule, it changes so much).
A Treasury spokesman said: "The independent National Audit Office, not the Treasury, reported on the effectiveness of PFI projects, and it is they who state that PFI gives 'greater certainty'. The Government remains committed to investing in our public services and infrastructure to overcome a historic legacy of underinvestment, and PFI will continue to be used to deliver a small but important part of this investment, where it is shown to be value for money for taxpayers to do so."
A Treasury source added yesterday: "Anyone saying there is no evidence for using PFI obviously hasn't read the NAO's independent reports on the subject."
Au contraire, it seems that the Edinburgh team have read the NAO's independent reports and they have concluded that PFI is a big pile of shit.
The reason that PFI has been such a fucking disaster is very simple: it combines many of the worst bits of both public and private sector behaviour. The advantage of PFI was that the private contractor would take responsibility for cost overruns and, of course, the Chancellor could pretend that he wasn't really spending any cash.
Unfortunately, the responsibility bit didn't take. The government could not let the PFI consortium go bust, e.g. in the case of Mapely Steps, the tax-haven based company that, ironically, bought and runs all of the Customs and Revenue Buildings, who had to return, cap in hand, to be bailed out.
Also, as Wat Tyler has consistently pointed out, the state is a Simple Shopper and is utterly outclassed by private sector negotiators when determining contracts.
And, since that Brown arsehole was so desperate to use PFI, private companies and the public commissioners would effectively collaborate on quotes to ensure that the private quote was cheaper than the public sector comparator. No matter that the PFI quote bore absolutely no fucking relation to the final cost, Brown wants PFI so PFI it is.
So, here you have the inefficient Simple Shopper, almost certainly indulging in the state's legendary tendency to shift the requirements several times during the project and effectively in bed with the companies bidding.
On the other side, we have huge companies, driven to make as much profit as possible, working projects for a client with an effectively bottomless wallet who cannot afford, politically, for the scheme to go wrong or the contractor to go bust or pull out. Further, the terms of these contracts ensure that the contracting company have an effective monopoly on the supply-side and running costs for massive installations for the next 30 years or so; in some cases, the contractor will still own the buildings at the end of that time, so the state will have to negotiate another healthy contract after that.
So we have companies needing to make money and essentially featherbedded from any kind of cost implications, the very thing that would normally drive efficiency in the private sector, and a naive, imcompetant and desperate state aiming to hire the company at any cost. It was always going to be a disaster from the taxpayer's point of view.
The only person who couldn't see that was Gordon "Financial Fucking Wizard. Not" Brown: what a fuckwit.