Thursday, 27 January 2011

PFI - Can We Afford It?

Those of you who read this Blog regularly you will know that, quite apart from our sincere misgivings about the long term safety of the incineration process in general and the negative impact this project will have on our area’s health and chances of regeneration, we are also deeply sceptical of the PFI process which is how Leeds City Council proposes to pay for their facility. The new Municipal Waste Treatment Plant PFI contact will run over a 25-30 year period.

As we have highlighted previously, there are many very well documented problems with other PFI projects around the country and it seems that as more and more are coming under close scrutiny they are failing to measuring up to the golden promise they once seemed to offer.

The Daily Telegraph is the latest newspaper to run an article by Andrew Gilligan on PFI contracts affecting schools, an earlier article in the Guardian by George Monbiot dealt with schools and hospitals – but across the board many of the conclusions are the same, even the influential Commons public accounts committee; warns of the danger these contracts can pose if not carefully monitored, and whilst private companies, by and large, seen do very well out of these types of deals that cannot always be said for the rest of us who it seems do not always get either value for money or a solution to its problems.

At first glance this PFI contract seems like a very good deal for the residents of Leeds. After all we get a new Waste Treatment Plant without having to pay up front. On closer inspection however it becomes apparent that this lifebelt is, in this case, made of concrete not foam. We have to commit to a long term contract lasting between 25-30 years, without knowing exactly how much waste and what kind there will be to process over that period of time.

The world is finally starting to wake up to the effects of our profligate lifestyle on the planet and its long term consequences for all of us: It seems more and more likely that measures taken by individual residents themselves; government and council initiatives to pressure big business; together with better education on this subject will reduce large amounts of the present waste stream over the next few years. No one is suggesting however that all waste will be eliminated, it won’t be but as more and more of the world’s scarce resources become financially viable for recycling it could reduce very substantially.

We the residents of Leeds however, once committed to this contract, will have to pay and keep on paying, even if we are not using this facility to its full capacity, thereby making it less efficient and economical to run, or indeed even if we are not using it at all because it has been superseded by improved technology, by no means an unreasonable suggestion given the time scales proposed and the pace at which technological innovation is moving, driven on as it is by commercial pressures to find ever more efficient and more cost effective methods of dealing with this problem.

For the lucky winner of our PFI contract it will be a win, win situation - unfortunately for the Council Tax payers of Leeds it may very well prove to be a costly and losing proposition, not only for those around today but for their children and possibly their grandchildren.


  1. In the latest copy of Private Eye (1280) pg. 13 in ‘Rotten Boroughs’ interesting piece about waste disposal contracts – ‘under contracts between waste disposal companies and local authorities, if the council turns down a planning application for an incinerator it then has to bear most of the costs of any appeal to a planning inspector e.g.Derby City and Derbyshire county councils got stung for £580k after they turned down Resource Recovery Solutions plan for an incinerator and the partner appealed the decision – with the 2 councils having to find 90% of the legal costs.

  2. Sascharabbit that is ridiculous! How is that a level playing field?

    Once again the interests of big business are protected and the interests, health and future of local communities is not given fair consideration.