The government has been using the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for over 25 years to build public infrastructure assets (particularly schools, hospitals and roads) and deliver services linked to the asset. In PFI deals the public sector enters into a contract with a private company specifically created to deliver the asset. The private company raises the finance needed to fund the asset from debt and equity investors. Once the asset is constructed and available for use, the taxpayer makes annual payments to the private company over the length of the contract, typically 25 to 30 years. These annual payments cover debt and interest repayments, shareholder dividends, asset maintenance, and in some cases other services like cleaning.
There are currently over 700 PFI and PF2 contracts in operation, with around £60 billion of assets built using them. Public bodies paid £10.3 billion to private companies under these contracts in 2016–17. Even if the government does not enter into any new PFI-type deals it will pay private companies a further £199 billion between April 2017 until the 2040s for existing deals, in addition to some £110 billion already paid. In 2012, the Treasury replaced the PFI model with PF2 to address some of the previous Committee’s criticisms of PFI, including inflexibility and lack of transparency. So far only six PF2 projects have been commissioned, with another two projects in the pipeline.
Published: 20 June 2018