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The Troublemaker—private firms charge schools £8,000 for a window blind

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Issue 2551
PFI scams have robbed schools blind
PFI scams have robbed schools blind (Pic: Phillip Taylor/flikr)

Schools are locked into contracts that force them to pay high prices for minor items, such as £2,000 for a sink and £8,000 for a window blind.

Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts include what are called life-cycle costs. These mean schools keep paying for minor items throughout the duration of a PFI contract. Over years, even modest payments add up to large amounts.

One teacher told the Times Educational Supplement, “We have an annual PFI bill of £132,478. We have been paying £88 a year for the installation of a new sink for 14 years now. With nine years left on the PFI contact, that sink will cost £2,024.”

A blind for a room at Bristol Metropolitan Academy will end up costing £8,154 under the PFI contract. Oasis Academy Brislington, also in Bristol, will pay £2,211 for a water tap.

National Audit Office started an investigation with a focus on schools. It was originally due to conclude in summer, but this has been deferred after the announcement of the general election.

The investigation found that Newman RC College, a secondary school in Oldham, was charged £48 for security guards to open the premises to allow pupils to use the toilet before a trip. The same school had to pay more than £400 for caretakers to fit notice boards.

PFI investors make profits from contracts that run for decades. They make money from not only charging interest on repayments but also from schools paying for services such as security, cleaning and maintenance, in annual payments called unitary charges.

Anything that falls outside the contract, such as a new fire extinguisher or changing the use of a room, usually results in extra charges.

Every state school in England would have to pay more than £1 million to clear the debt owed to PFI companies that built new schools.

Taxpayers had already paid £7.5 billion in unitary charges for school PFIs to the end of 2014-15.

‘Don’t vote for me’ candidate of the week

In Scotland the Tories are embroiled in an embarrassing row with one of their own local election candidates over whether he agreed to stand.

Thomas Williamson will be on the ballot paper when voters in the Shetland Island’s Lerwick North ward vote for their councillors.

But the man, “Skerries Tom”, has told the Shetland Times that he never agreed to be a Tory candidate—and has asked residents not to vote for him.

He said he had received a phone call from some “buggers doon sooth”—a Tory official asking whether he would stand as a paper candidate in order to boost their national vote share.

This was a tactic that the local paper said hadn’t been employed on the islands by parties before.

Williamson said the conversation was obscured by a “crackling line” and that he had been cut off, only discovering that he was a candidate when the official notice of the poll was published. He called his candidacy a “cock up”.

The Tories insist he did agree to stand.


Tories back sexist bosses’ dress codes

The Tories have quietly pushed to one side demands that employers should not be allowed to force women to wear heels in the workplace.

“We are clear that the law to deal with this sort of discrimination is adequate,” a government spokesperson claimed, citing the 2010 Equalities Act.

Nicole Thorp initiated a parliamentary petition after being sent home from the PwC accountancy firm, where she was temping, for not wearing heels to work. The petition was signed by 152,000 people.

The 2010 Act is vague and open to vast interpretation, leaving the door open to sexist employers.

It states that bosses can’t make “significantly more demands” on women workers than on men when it comes to dress codes.

And there’ll be little change as long as the Tories are in government—another reason to get rid of them.

Owen Jones uses Tory spin doctor’s service

Owen Jones has launched a crowd funding operation. The apocalyptically titled “Stop A Tory Landslide Fund” was raising cash for Labour candidates—though which ones was unclear. There are many crowd funding sites available, but Jones chose the site founded and run by former Tory spin doctor Steve Hilton.

Blair’s hopefully slight return?

Tony Blair has said he “almost feels motivated” to return to frontline politics to fight Brexit, as he urged voters to back pro-EU candidates of any party. Brexit is now “bigger than party allegiance”. Since being responsible for the murder of a million Iraqis didn’t get him kicked out of Labour, Troublemaker presumes calling for voting for parties other than Labour won’t either.

The three Tory policy stooges

Meet the men writing the Tory manifesto.

  • Millionaire Tory MP George Freeman claimed £7,000 in taxpayer’s cash for hotel stays despite owning a £600,000 flat a mile from Westminster. He defended cuts to Personal Independence Payments, saying benefits must be reserved for “really disabled people”.
    George Freeman

    George Freeman (Pic: Policy Exchange/Wikicommons)

  • Privately educated Tory cabinet minister Ben Gummer, whose Tory Lord father John Gummer sent him to the £9,386-a-term Tonbridge School.

  • Former Lehman Brothers spin doctor John Godfrey, who spent 20 years working in the City before being made Theresa May’s head of policy.

New Lockerbie appeal chance

The family of the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing is to launch a fresh attempt to clear his name.

Files would be handed to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) within the next two weeks.

The SCCRC will decide whether there are grounds to refer the case to the appeal court.

The things they say

‘BP portrait award shortlist offers up all-female line-up’

The Guardian newspaper describes a line-up of images of women—not by them

‘She asked if she could walk across my lawn and I said no, not really’

Graham Mills from Dudley doesn’t let Theresa May walk on his grass

‘Had second old school Tory MP— in all seriousness —refer to the Prime Minister as “mummy” on the phone. That’s twice in a week’

The Sun’s Harry Cole has the inside scoop on Tory MPs

‘You can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike ‘

Defence minister Michael Fallon

‘I am unlikely to live to see another Labour government’

The former Labour leader Lord Kinnock isn’t optimistic about the general election

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