Restrictive PFI contracts are leaving many authorities – including Falkirk Council – facing eye-watering costs for basic maintenance.
Some contracts require the public sector to pay the private firms additional costs such as those for cleaning and general maintenance of the buildings for the length of the agreement.
One school in the Falkirk district was charged £2109 for three shelves to be put up.
While other additional costs to be paid by Falkirk Council in relation to local schools include £4009 for black out blinds; £2282 for four flag poles; £6176 for bus bay painting; £2799 to install brackets for speakers, televisions etc in a PE fitness suite; £2513 for three flower troughs and £960 for a ballet bar in a dance studio.
As well as the building and running of key infrastructure, PFI agreements often include services such as maintenance and cleaning, but critics say this can leave public bodies paying higher prices for basic changes to their buildings. Unite the union’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartman, said: “Using PFI contracts are like an individual using a credit card, but in the case of PFIs, it takes 20 to 30 years to pay off the debt – this is not an effective use of taxpayers’ money. “We have all heard similar stories to the one of a police force being billed £884 for one chair – we really need to put a stop to this outrageous waste of public money.” Megan Waugh, a researcher at the University of Leeds who is studying PFI, said: “These ‘extra charges’ are incredibly common and a complete rip-off.
“Public authorities trapped in PFI contracts are forced to use the PFI contractor who can and do charge over the odds for basic maintenance and repairs.”