Headlines: January 29th, 2004

New figures apparently show increased interest from local authorities in Private Finance Initiatives in housing. Nineteen councils have bid for a share of the 600 million pounds available and the government is claiming this bolsters the role of PFIs in delivering decent homes.Housing Minister Keith Hill said PFI played an important part in improving homes and the communities in which they stood. Schemes could range from the regeneration of whole estates to the refurbishment of tower blocks or other properties.

He pointed to projects already underway in Manchester and Islington where work was going on to improve 3,000 properties. Other councils were involved in developing joined-up schemes to tackle a wider range of issues, such as supported housing or affordable homes and several of these are expected to sign contracts in the coming months.

Of the nineteen bids, six are from councils in London, six from the North West, three from Yorkshire and Humberside and one each from the East Midlands, the Eastern Region, the South East and South West.

Mr. Hill said the proposed schemes went well beyond delivering decent homes, ensuring all social housing would be warm, weatherproof and more modern by 2010. They also demonstrated how embracing innovation could improve people’s lives.

This, he said, was a new process but many lessons had already been learned and work had been commissioned to produce a Procurement Pack to streamline the system for local authorities and bidders. This will be made available to schemes in the current round.

Eleven of the bids are under the Housing Revenue Account PFI heading which delivers investment in housing by establishing long-term contracts with a consortium of private sector firms to provide repairs, maintenance and a range of housing management services to council-owned houses. Seven others are for non HRA PFIs which use a similar contract structure but usually provides new homes which are managed by a registered social landlord.