James Forsyth

Can the public purse get some of its money back from PFI contractors?

Can the public purse get some of its money back from PFI contractors?
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Asking PFI contractors to voluntarily give back some of the money that they are due from the government might seem like rather a hopeless task. But the PFI-Rebate campaign launched today by Jesse Norman, one of the smartest of the new intake of Tory MPs, has a better chance of success than appears at first blush.

Norman is pushing for the contractors to take a 0.5 percent cut which they might well decide is worthwhile to deal with all the negative publicity that further scrutiny of PFI would bring. If these contractors want to take the PFI model global, then they can’t really afford the kind of coverage that a prolonged campaign would bring.

Another thing in Norman’s favour is that Treasury ministers are acutely aware of just how bad a deal for the taxpayers PFI is as the Treasury itself is run on a PFI contract. This contract led to Osborne being told, to his amazement, that fish and chips for six in his office from the canteen would cost £148.

If the PFI companies dig their heels in and refuse to compromise at all, they might find themselves losing far more than the £500 million that Norman wants to claw back.