Treasury to vet PFI bids

The Treasury is to produce an approved list of college building programmes to shore up industry confidence and boost the take-up of Private Finance Initiatives in FE, writes Harvey McGavin.

PFI projects worth more than #163;10 million and with a significant service element - such as catering, sports or information technology - will have to meet new guidelines ensuring their viability, affordability and the commitment of the college. They will then be "signed off" by the Further Education Funding Council before being put out to tender.

Colleges have often struggled to find private-sector partners for PFIs. So far five - New College, Nottingham, Tynemouth, Runshaw, Wigston and Hammersmith and West London - have signed PFI contracts worth a total of Pounds 22.4m. But several of the "pathfinder projects" designed to test the feasibility of such arrangements have failed to materialise.

The lifelong learning minister, George Mudie, said that the new arrangements "will make it easier for the further education sector to attract private sector finance, bringing it in line with those in central and local government, and higher education".

Similar arrangements for HE institutions were announced in April.

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