Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cut this PFI debt

Time and time again we are told that vital services and valuable jobs have to be sacrificed to pay off the national debt. So why are we guaranteeing to pay an index-linked £267 billion, over 50 years, to a few privileged private companies?

According to George Monbiot, this extraordinary sum is the amount we now owe to private companies that built hospitals, schools and roads under New Labour’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  He explains that in 1997, “the Labour government gave companies a legal guarantee that their payments would never be cut”.  The result is that “the NHS now owes private companies £50bn for infrastructure that cost only £11bn to build, plus £15bn for maintenance charges”.

Monbiot argues that the debts should be declared “odious” (a term used by some lawyers to describe debts incurred without the consent of the people and against the national interest). We should simply refuse to pay them.

When something has to be cut, why should the self-declared risk-taking entrepreneurs be protected? For them, it seems to be all profit and no risk.

That’s unlikely to find any favour with the government – or the Labour opposition who got us into this mess. But these companies have made enough profit out of our public services. We are entitled to ask why we should starve the NHS to keep feeding their greed.