Unite repeats calls for national private finance review

This was a PRESS RELEASE issued by Unite the Union on Thursday 13th April 2017.

Unite the union has repeated its call to scrap the use of private finance to build schools and other public buildings in Scotland – and its demand for a national inquiry.

The union was commenting after it emerged that at least 71 more schools in Scotland were found to have similar defects to Edinburgh schools judged to be unsafe.

Following the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in January last year, some 17 Edinburgh schools built using private finance were closed to pupils.

Unite deputy Scottish secretary Mary Alexander said:

“Professor John Cole’s independent report into the Edinburgh private finance schools showed how local councils were being forced at gun point to use private finance. That’s a central government policy that is still continuing – so we now need the Scottish Government to stand up and take responsibility.

“Private finance has given us poor quality, unsafe buildings at extortionate cost, putting massive debt around the necks of councils, health boards and other public bodies, and dragging them under at a time of austerity. The use of private finance models should be scrapped now.”

Unite says a national inquiry should not only look at the safety of schools, but all public buildings constructed under private finance schemes.

The union says the inquiry should also look at the value for money of private finance contracts – including those being carried out under the Scottish Government’s NPD model, as well as previous PFI / PPP schemes.

Mary Alexander said:

“NPD is basically PFI-light. We want an inquiry to take an independent look at all these contracts – and where it’s shown that private finance schemes are not delivering value for money, the Scottish Government should enable public bodies to buy them out.”

In 2016 the Scottish Government refused to give Highland Council permission to borrow money to buy out £160 million private finance contracts covering the construction and upkeep of 15 schools.

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