With Grace Blakely
The ‘Private Finance Initiative’ still sounds like a dry, technical procedure that nobody could get too excited about. That’s what it’s supposed to sound like. Journalists and government have colluded for 25 years in making sure that the public don’t take too much interest in it.
In fact the PFI has been central to UK government policy since the mid 1990s and has been the vehicle through which huge chunks of the British public sector have been privatised without any mandate from the people. One of Stuart Hall’s last great public interventions was to call for the launch of a public campaign against this programme in 2000 – he could see how serious its implications were.
The story of the Private Finance Initiative reached its long-predicted denouement this year with the collapse of Carillion, a company employing 43,000 workers, responsible for dozens of contracts to deliver services across the UK public sector. The biggest bankruptcy in British history has exposed what many economists and political commentators have been saying for years: the PFI was a disastrous policy that was never really intended to benefit the public, but to enable multinational corporations to generate vast profits at the expense of the tax-payer, local authorities, schools and hospitals
But what exactly is the PFI, how does it work, and why are the Blairites still opposed to actually scrapping it?