“Exclusive: £8,000 for a blind, £2,000 for a tap; the true cost of PFI”

Owl says: although this is about schools, it applies to the NHS too. Why is Tiverton hospital staying open when others are closing – it is a PFI- funded hospital and closing it or even reducing beds, even if that is a right decision, is not an option.

“Schools are paying thousands of pounds more than they should for everyday items because they are locked into PFI contracts they have no control over, a Tes investigation has revealed.

In what are dubbed “life-cycle costs”, schools are charged over the duration of PFI contracts, which results in even modest monthly payments mounting up over the years.

One teacher, who asks not to be named, cites an example: “We are a PFI school with an annual PFI bill of £132,478. We have been paying £88 [a year] for the installation of a new sink for 14 years now. With nine years left on the PFI contact, that sink will cost £2,024.”

At Bristol Metropolitan Academy, a single blind for a room will end up costing £8,154 under PFI. Oasis Academy Brislington, also in the Bristol area, will pay £2,211 for an external water tap over the course of a contract.

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, in north-east London, told Tes that the companies that profit from financing PFI deals were the “legal loan sharks of the public sector”. She wants an inquiry into PFI “before even more schools and hospitals are saddled with debts they can’t pay”.

For some schools, even getting the gates open to allow children to use the toilet before a school trip is a costly exercise.

One secondary in Oldham – Newman RC College – was charged £48 after security opened the school to allow pupils to visit the lavatory. The same school had to pay more than £400 for caretakers to fit some notice boards.

Such charges are not unusual. Tim Gilson, the head at Malmesbury School, in Wiltshire, said: “We had some benching put in the canteen, just along one wall, about 20 yards. We have to pay about £40 a month for the facilities management cost of that bench, on top of the cost of putting that bench in and all the materials. It’s a monthly charge that continues for the length of the contract.”

With 13 years left on his school’s PFI contract, the secondary will be charged £6,240 just for the management of the bench.” …