Private firm pocketed millions of pounds by 'selling on' the PFI contract for University Hospital of North Durham (From The Northern Echo)
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Private firm pocketed millions of pounds by 'selling on' the PFI contract for University Hospital of North Durham
6:07am Friday 6th June 2014 in News
THE firm that built a North-East hospital under a controversial PFI deal has pocketed tens of millions of pounds by selling it on.
A leading MP described the ‘flipping’ of the contract for the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND) – and many others across the UK – as a “total scandal” that had ripped off taxpayers.
The huge annual repayments that hospitals must make to service PFI deals have been blamed for helping to plunge many into financial difficulties.
But a spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Durham City hospital, said the sale – by Balfour Beatty - made no difference to its annual costs.
The trust refused to discuss the scale of PFI repayments it makes, under a trailblazing 30-year deal struck in 1998, at the start of Labour’s years in office.
The spokesman said: “The recent sale by Balfour Beatty has no financial impact on the trust and University Hospital of North Durham continues to deliver healthcare services and care to meet the needs of the local population.”
The row is the latest twist in the long-standing criticism of PFI, a ‘mortgage’ scheme which saw private firms paid to build and maintain public assets for up to 30 years.
This week, Balfour Beatty ‘flipped’ the contracts for the UHND and for seven schools in Merseyside.
The two deals brought in profits of £51m, the Independent newspaper revealed, although it is not known how much of that sum was generated in North Durham.
Across England, four contractors have made profits of more than £300m from such re-sales, with Balfour Beatty (£188.9m) the biggest winner.
The resales were condemned by Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee - who acknowledged blame lay with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Ms Hodge said: “It is a scandal, a total scandal that the public sector has privatised these projects so badly. We have all been ripped off.
“I'm afraid we got it wrong. I was a supporter at the time but I have completely gone off the whole concept. We got seduced by PFI."
A previous analysis found that ten North-East hospital schemes were worth £725m, but the eventual PFI payments will be £3.94bn - more than five times as much.
However, supporters of PFI argued it allowed Labour to build 100 new hospitals, the biggest building programme in the history of the NHS.
Balfour Beatty did not respond to the criticism last night, but confirmed that 50 per cent of the £90m North Durham contract had been sold on.
A statement, announcing the £51m total profit, said: “The proceeds from these transactions exceed the Directors’ valuations by £44 million, representing an uplift of 82 per cent.”
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