You get what you pay for

4th June 2004 at 01:00
The Scottish Government is pressing ahead with the discredited PPP programme, rolling it out to another four councils and insisting that it brings value for money in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

We have the Education Minister telling us that it is providing schools equipped for the 21st century, equipped to meet modern needs and challenges, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not the case.

Only last week, an Educational Institute of Scotland report stated that new PPP schools suffered poor planning and shoddy workmanship and often had leaking roofs, narrow corridors, cramped classrooms and playgrounds, inadequate insulation and poor water supplies - and, to make matters worse, the advice of teachers had been ignored.

There are alternatives to privatisation, one of which is the SNP idea of a not-for-profit trust which the Executive has partially adopted at the request of some councils, like Falkirk, and it should be thinking about taking the project the whole way.

The Executive has trumpeted traditional "prudential borrowing" as an alternative to PPP because even it recognises the limitations of privatisation. The SNP demands that the schools fund, valued at pound;180 million, be made available for "prudential borrowing" rather than being reserved just for the Executive's pet PPP policy.

In the meantime, the Scottish Executive must ensure that there are no schools going to tender with only one bidder in the frame, as that would clearly make a mockery of the "best value" that private competition is supposed to bring.

There has to be a change to the model schools PPP contract, to ensure that decent PE facilities and out of hours access for community use are built in to prevent the zealous sell-off of playing fields to pay for PPP profits.

Fiona Hyslop MSP

Shadow Education Minister

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