Sunday, June 24, 2007

Brockley PFI signed

One of the many things I meant to post on before I went on holiday:

The Brockley PFI housing contract was finally signed on 4th June. This is a contract to transfer the management of 1,800 council homes in the Brockley and Ladywell areas over to a private consortium, B3.

B3 will be responsible for the day-to-day management of council houses in the Brockley and Ladywell area over the next 20 years, as well as for carrying out work to bring the homes up to the government’s Decent Homes standard by 2012.

The agreement was due to be signed in January, but was pushed back 6 months due to protracted legal negotiations between the council’s legal team and B3.

I am relieved that after lengthy delays much-needed investment will finally go ahead in Brockley and Ladywell, but I am not convinced PFI offers value for money. What residents need is direct government investment in council housing, rather than private companies profiting at taxpayers’ expense.

Nevertheless, I hope to work constructively with B3 to ensure council tenants and leaseholders in Brockley and Ladywell get the best possible deal and that their views are heard. Residents have waited years for improvements to their homes and Green councillors will be keeping a close eye to ensure tenants are not ripped off by this PFI as they have been elsewhere.

While there will be some improvements in home energy efficiency, the Brockley PFI doesn’t go far enough and represents a missed opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. Double glazing will make homes warmer, which is great, but the decision to use UPVC, rather than wooden frames, is a false economy and bad news for the planet.

The latest council newsletter on the Brockley PFI, which should be being delivered to residents very soon, can also be read here.

Further details:
1. The Brockley PFI scheme will include 1,852 dwellings in the contract area (which covers most of council housing in Brockley and Ladywell wards), of which 1,366 are tenanted and are 486 leaseholders. The proposed duration of the contract was originally 25 years, but this was reduced to 20 years.
2. The B3 consortium consists of Higgins, who will be carrying out the initial improvement works, Equipe, who will be responsible for ongoing repairs over the lifetime of the contract and Pinnacle, who will be responsible for the housing management.
3. Following the signing of the contract, there will be a 3-month transition period before B3 takes over the day-to-day management of council houses in the Brockley and Ladywell area. They will also be responsible for carrying out improvements to bring the homes up to the government’s decent homes standard by 2012. Depending on the condition of properties, the work to bring the council’s housing stock up to the government established decent homes standard may include new windows, kitchens, bathrooms, boilers and rewiring.
4. The total legal costs for the council for the Brockley PFI scheme came to over £2 millions pounds.
5. Green opposition to PFI in a nutshell: the government claims that PFI improves the public finances, but often it costs more. It is claimed that it can get investment for projects which would otherwise not be funded, but the lack of funding for public projects is merely due to Treasury rules. PFI is often portrayed as a way of getting private funding into the public sector, but private companies don't become involved for altruistic reasons, only to make a profit. The reason the government has been able to gain acceptance for so many PFI schemes is that they are often portrayed as the 'only game in town'. Defend Council Housing also has a good summary of arguments against PFI.
6. Home energy consumption currently accounts for around 37% of carbon emissions in London, but the Decent Homes standards for England are weaker on sustainability than those in Scotland and Wales.
7. UPVC windows vs wooden windows: Wooden frames last much longer than UPVC if properly maintained, and cost much less to dispose of at the end of their lifetime, as they don’t contain the toxic materials that UPVC windows do.

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