Headlines: March 27th, 2002

Some 200 schools will benefit in 2003/04 from 900 million pounds of funding from the Private Finance Initiative. The projects include refurbishment as well as building new schools. Since 1997 over 2 billion pounds of PFI funding has been put into schools. Thirty new, rebuilt, or extensively refurbished schools using PFI funding have been opened since 1999.Bidders for PFI finance are encouraged to devise imaginative projects aimed at raising standards, securing wider access and encouraging lifelong learning. The latest projects include proposals for community facilities such as libraries, social services such as creches, nurseries to help the recruitment and retention of teachers, as well as health centres and sports facilities. One project includes an integrated ICT network to establish closer working relations between local primary schools, businesses and residents.

With no let up in the growth of PFI for schools, hospitals, prisons and other projects, as well as other ways of involving the private sector in public services, disquiet among Labour party members continues to grow. At a meeting of the Labour Party Executive yesterday, left-wingers and union leaders called for an end to the involvement of private firms in public services. The motion put to the meeting was deferred, but the backers will continue to press their case.