We had a sharp reminder this morning that winter isn’t over yet. Everything was frozen solid and the long-discarded blow-torch was back in action. There are several supporters for the save the world from climate change lobby but Albert is not one of them. On mornings such as this he delights in reminding us of the predictions that Blackpool beach will become too hot to venture on. I have to admit that it is sometimes easier to believe in global cooling! Of course none of us was sufficiently savvy to climb aboard the biggest racket this country has ever known – and that’s saying something- which is Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). Had we done so, we would be lounging on some distant beach, and I don’t mean Blackpool.
One plus point for the coalition is that it has quickly identified the biggest waste of public money this country has ever known. PFIs were introduced by the last Conservative government and were used throughout the whole of the Blair and Brown years. With the honourable exception of Private Eye they received little publicity and were clearly seen by both Tory and Labour ministers as an easy way to build hospitals and schools without incurring a debit on the national balance sheet.
And private companies have made billions of pounds at the taxpayer’s expense. Under the schemes private enterprises meet the upfront costs of building and then operate them, recouping the money from the taxpayer over many years. Sounds good in theory but the implementation was scandalous. For example, Treasury figures show that taxpayers will spend £229 billion on projects that cost the contractor only £56 billion. The biggest single PFI contractor was ‘Innisfree’, which employs just 14 people but now owns, or co-owns, 28 NHS hospitals and 269 schools.
Its chief executive has built a personal fortune of more than £50 million since founding the company in 1995. Yesterday Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, said that many of the deals done were “ghastly”. He added that “many of the contracts we have discovered were unacceptable and the people on the other side must have been laughing all the way to the bank”.
Many hospitals and schools now have a millstone around their necks. In some cases the buildings will be obsolete long before the debt has been paid off. And to make things even worse the contractors control all maintenance and charge astronomic fees for rectifying even the smallest fault. Many of the original contracts have been sub-contracted and it is now extremely difficult to identify the many snouts gathered around the publicly funded trough.
A campaign being led by Jesse Norman, a Tory bankbencher, is calling for PFI firms to pay a £500 million rebate to the exchequer. He is entirely justified but the chances of it happening are remote. The tuck shop has been closed and the profiteers are heading for sunlit tax havens.
There is probably reason to suspect that even the process of awarding such enormously generous deals was itself corrupt. Either way, successive governments literally gave away more billions than the current national deficit. And yet no one complained, no one questionned what was going on, except for Ian Hislop’s magazine which constantly attempted to blow the whistle on the scandal of our age.
Suddenly everyone can read of a massive contribution to the financial mess that now engulfs us. Suddenly we realise, if we didn’t already know, that politicians of all parties are not to be trusted. Yes the Banks were the prime contributors to our fate but the successive chancellors who went along with this massive racket also played a major part!
So if you are redundant, or in any way a victim of the Osborne cuts, you may be forgiven for thinking that the very people who now assure you that we are all in this together were part of the structure that allowed this daylight robbery to occur!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “Women might start a rumour, but not a war”….Marga Gomez “Smart girls know how to play tennis, piano and dumb”….Lynn Redgrave “Wild horses wouldn’t drag a secret out of most women; however, women seldom have lunch with wild horses”….Ivern Boyett “No woman ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes”……George Coote “I am all for women’s rights – and for their lefts too”….Groucho Marx “It is noticeable that in all the discussion about the femininity of God, the masculainity of the Devil goes unchallenged”….Christopher Russell “If you think women are the weaker sex just try pulling the blankets over to your side”……Stuart Turner “When they told me that in 2100 women will rule the world my reply was ‘Still?’….Winston Churchill “I look like the girl next door, if you happen to live next to an amusement park”…..Dolly Parton “To attract men I use a perfume called ‘New Car Interior’ “…..Rita Rudner “Men aren’t attracted to me by my mind. They’re attracted by what I don’t mind”…..Gypsy Rose Lee “My wife and I have Olympic sex. Once every four years!”…..Rodney Dangerfield
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Maurice Chevalier 2. Chess
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Who was the first to run a mile in under 3min 50sec? 2 In whose name was a cricket pitch dug up and daubed with graffiti?