Stripping out the 'fat' saves £129m for taxpayer

STRIPPING out "fat contingencies" and the use of "innovative" finance schemes has contributed to savings of £129 million for the Scottish taxpayer in the past year, the country's infrastructure procurement body yesterday claimed.

The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) said the savings were made on a range of public infrastructure projects the body supports including schools and community facility "hubs" worth up to 9 billion.

The savings made in 2010-11 mark a 16 per cent increase on the 111m skimmed off the lifetime costs of procurement contracts last year, bringing the total the body has saved since it was established in 2008 to 240m.

The SFT said the projects it was sponsoring will protect more than 7,000 construction jobs in Scotland.

According to an annual review, which was analysed by the London School of Economics and accountancy firm Grant Thornton, the body saved 42m from the projects by challenging historic budgets and addressing what Barry White, the body's chief executive, called "fat contingencies".

White said: "Getting money back from a budget once it has been allocated is a little bit like wrestling a goat from the jaws of a lion.

"These figures demonstrate the potential that robust challenge and commercial expertise can bring to future infrastructure investment across Scotland.

"It is our job to make the public pound stretch further in these extremely challenging times."

The group said its 2.5bn "non profit distributing" (NPD) funding programme, which finances building projects through future revenue budgets, was one of the biggest of its kind in Europe.

Sir Angus Grossart, chairman of the Scottish Futures Trust, said: "This statement, independently verified, is clear evidence of what we are already achieving."

Alex Neil, secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, said: "The SFT is driving forward with plans to develop alternative funding models including revenue finance, in order to deliver innovative new ways of working that will result in improved value for taxpayers."