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CBI joins PFI debate

The Confederation of British Industry has called on the government to recognise that private finance plays a vital role in building the UK’s public services and infrastructure.

Its report Building Strong Foundations: Financing UK Infrastructure follows a report by Parliament’s Treasury Committee which was heavily critical of PFI as inefficient and poor value for money.

The government is right to look closely at how the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was used and must act on the lessons learned, the CBI said. But with the public finances so constrained, much of the investment to maintain and build infrastructure will need to come from private finance, it added.

Dr Neil Bentley, CBI deputy director-general, said: “A successful economy depends on high-quality economic and social infrastructure. Given the current state of the public finances, private finance must be an option if the public is to continue to access quality new schools, hospitals and other infrastructure at an affordable price.

“We want the Government to publish a clear, long-term pipeline of projects so that investors can have the confidence to put their money in the UK. Infrastructure spending also offers one of the biggest bangs for buck in terms of additional economic activity, so this is a chance to generate jobs, growth and build for the future.”

The CBI’s report highlights the benefits that PFI has already delivered for taxpayers, through better designs, sharing risk and including maintenance in the overall cost of the project.

In the last decade more than 700 PFI projects have been both approved and financially backed, including more than 120 healthcare initiatives, the CBI said.