Council ‘had no choice in bidding for funds’

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THE head of one of Yorkshire’s most prolific PFI departments has made it clear why councils have been keen to sign up over the past 15 years – to secure Government funds for local projects.

Few local authorities in Yorkshire have embraced PFI to the extent of Leeds City Council, which is responsible for three of the 10 new projects due to be finalised in the region over the coming year.

PFI schemes to build 400 new council houses and refurbish 1,300 more in Little London, Beeston Hill and Holbeck; construct a vast waste incinerator in east Leeds and open a £13m “wellbeing centre” are all due to be signed off in the next 12 months.

They will add to three PFI contracts already entered into covering new leisure centres, service centres and street lighting; plus a further six relating to the refurbishment and construction of close to 50 city schools.

The city council’s chief officer for public-private partnerships David Outram said: “In 2007 and 2008 central Government had said it wanted local authorities to bid for money to make a difference in certain areas – but that money came through PFI. There was no alternative to the council.

“If we wanted works that were going to make a difference in Leeds we had to go to central Government and bid for that money. It came in the form of PFI credits.”

Mr Outram said the PFI benefits for the city have been huge.

He said: “Forty-eight schools in Leeds have benefited. Thousands of homes have been built. Individuals with learning difficulties have been taken out of hostels and put into their own homes.

“And by our calculations, 20,000 jobs have been created.”

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