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PFI: The questions

Is it my building?

No. The school will be allowed to use the building for the hours specified in the contract. In addition to normal opening times the contact will allow access after school for clubs and meetings, along with a specific number of days for parents meetings, open evenings, drama productions etc. Heads and governors could request access every evening, but it would increase the contract price.

Can we control lettings? What if an extremist organisation wanted to hire the hall?

Most contracts include a clause giving the governing body the right to veto unsuitable lettings.

How much will the school have to pay for the facilities management?

Probably more than the historic spending as the level of service will be higher. Between 8 and 10 per cent of the overall budget should be expected which usually includes heat and light.

Will the facilities management fee remain the same?

No. It will rise with inflation and heads and governors should check exactly how that rise would be calculated.

Can we make alterations to the building?

Yes. But the contractor has to agree any changes and you may be charged for any work - even if you arrange it yourself.

What happens if there is a dispute about the contract?

Contracts should include arbitration for matters that cannot be resolved through other means. If arbitration fails then the dispute will go to court - and cost everyone a great deal of money.

What about vandalism?

It's normal for the school to pay for deliberate damage done whilst the school is in session. Outside the school day the facilities management company is responsible, which usually means that PFI schools have a high level of security built in at the start. It also means that schools need to report all incidents promptly, to ensure that the facilities management company picks up the tab for out-of-hours incidents.

What happens if the contractor goes bust?

The contract will allow for this. There will simply be a tendering process for a new facilities management contractor. A takeover or merger could also result in a new FM company taking over the contract.

FAQs adapted from Managing a PFI Project by Malcolm Trobe and Malcolm Noble. SHA publications, pound;12.00

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