Jubilee Scotland is campaigning against the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Scotland.
The PPP model results in private companies being paid huge amounts of money across a span of up to 30 years, resulting in public infrastructures not necessarily being built in the best interest of the public, but instead, with a focus on the potential profits for the private companies.
So far, the capital value of assets covered by all current contracts is £9bn, however Scottish taxpayers have paid an added £4.1bn to private companies up to 2018/19 and are set to pay a further £27bn between 2019/20 and 2047/48. These figures show an overall £31.1bn profit for private companies – profit coming from taxpayers money
PPPs are an expensive and inefficient way of spending taxpayer money, and not only that, but the finished products often result in unsafe and unsustainable infrastructure. With the recent pandemic, the ownership and quality of public infrastructure has been more important than ever, particularly within the health sector. And a hospital parking scandal revealed just how important.
March of 2020 saw the start of the coronavirus lockdown in Scotland in which restrictions were introduced in terms of travel and more. At this point the Scottish Government was advising members of the public to avoid public transport. In support of this, the Scottish Government dropped parking charges for staff, visitors, and patients at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary and Scotland’s two other PFI hospitals – Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Ninewells in Dundee.
What wasn’t made clear at the time was the cost of suspending the charges, was borne by the Scottish Government rather than the private consort that runs the three hospitals.
A Freedom of Information Request revealed that the monthly fees in April-September 2020 were £357,000, then rose to £557,574 a month in October-December 2020 and £551,656 a month in January-March 2021. On top of these figures, additional costs came to £126,000.
This means that the Scottish Government paid £5,595,690 to private companies to provide free parking at the three hospitals for a year during the height of the COVID pandemic.
This is shameless profiteering and an example of how Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) line the pockets of private companies with public funds.
Parking charges at other NHS hospitals in Scotland were scrapped in 2008, and in 2020 the Government confirmed it would cost too much to buy out the contracts of the PFI companies. However, finally, in 2021, we saw the Scottish government strike deals worth £35m to buy out the car parks at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee and Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Ongoing negotiations are looking to strike a similar deal at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where parking can cost staff as much as £1500 a year.
The cost of parking at hospitals revealed the inequalities in access to safety and health. While the Scottish Government recognised this, and stepped in to solve this problem, the private company showed no intention of waiving costs.
The money that the government paid to private companies could have been used to improve the quality of services at a critical time during the pandemic. It is a lack of solidarity or public concern which highlights the need for Scotland to step away from PPPs and towards public interest – which has been recognised and criticised across parties, including Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives.
Jubilee Scotland’s Executive Director, Dr Line Christensen, agrees, highlighting that “this is unfortunately a great example of private companies profit from public finances and it needs to come to an end.”