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Reform PFI, ICE tells Labour

ICE news

PRIVATE FINANCE deals must be reformed if the initiative is to deliver its potential, the ICE told delegates at the Labour Party conference last week.

ICE vice president Gordon Masterton reeled off a string of flaws with the current system that need addressing, and singled out waste management as a particular concern.

'The first problem is the prescriptive nature of Treasury guidelines for standardised PFI contracts, so contract negotiations become extended.

'The second is the lack of direction from central government on the most appropriate technology. There also needs to be more help with planning, ' said Masterton.

asterton said without greater evaluation at an early stage of the appropriateness of schemes, deals would continue to collapse.

According to private finance promotion outfit 4ps, the number of authorities now engaged at different stages of waste PFI is in excess of 260, and nine projects have been successfully procured. But the last one of these was in Leicester in 2003.

Masterton was addressing a mixed audience of around 40 local politicians and Labour party supporters at a fringe reception hosted by the ICE and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Guest speaker was health minister Lord Warner, who said that the PFI was 'a once in a lifetime opportunity to regenerate the hospital estate'.

RIBA president Jack Pringle also called for reforms to the system, arguing that upfront design should taken out of the deal.

'We know good design pays, ' said Pringle. 'The problem with the classic mechanism is that it is not conducive to good design.

'At present designs and designers are buried deep in the consortia and are hard to relate to.

'The client should have a design team to work on the 'what', leaving the consortium to tackle the 'how', ' said Pringle.

The ICE hosted a reception at last year's party conference.

Similar events held at this year's Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences in Blackpool drew comparable crowds.

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