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Schools Private Finance Unit

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how much has been spent on (a) the establishment and (b) the running of the Schools Private Finance Unit; (139823)

(2) how many staff work in the Schools Private Finance Unit;

(3) what the functions are of the Schools Private Finance Unit; and how its performance is assessed.

The Department had a schools private finance unit from approximately 1996 to 2004. As a result of its work, there are now 107 PFI contracts with a value of £3.97 billion which are delivering buildings, ICT and other services to over 840 schools. The Department cannot work out the cost of the establishment or running of the unit over that period without incurring disproportionate cost. The unit began in 1996 with one full-time member of staff and, at its largest, had around 17 staff.

The Department currently has one PFI strategy adviser, at grade 7, and the average cost of employing a grade 7 is £65,000. The adviser’s function is to work with the private sector, central and local government and schools to promote excellent service to schools through PFI. Other staff in the Department’s Schools Capital Division also contribute to PFI work, and the Department works closely with Partnerships UK and the 4ps to ensure that local authorities and schools have the support they need. For example, Partnerships UK runs an operational taskforce which schools and local authorities can ring for help with PFI issues.

The Department previously assessed its performance on PFI in terms of contracts signed. Now that all 107 PFI contracts have been signed, we are considering what performance indicators might be appropriate for their build and operational phases.

All schools PFI is now within Building Schools for the Future, which is run by Partnerships for Schools, one of the Department’s non-departmental public bodies.