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Results of PFI review on track for 'autumn' launch

The government is gearing up to make an announcement on easing planning restrictions for major infrastructure projects within days, while it has confirmed it will publish its private finance initiative review shortly.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander insisted he wants to publish the results of the government’s PFI review “this autumn”, but would not give a more specific date.

Sources have indicated the announcement is likely to coincide with chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement, but the industry is still hoping the review will be fast-tracked.

The annoucement will help to ease fears that the PFI review could be pushed back as late as spring 2013, something raised with CN in recent weeks as the construction industry seeks clarity on long-term financing.

The chief secretary also said he expects an announcement on easing restrictions on major infrastructure this week.

He said planning delays were contributing to schemes being announced for funding and then being delayed, including projects given the green light in 2010 that have still not progressed to work on the ground.

He added: “There were projects announced in the spending review in 2010 that, because of problems in planning, are taking longer to deliver [than first thought]. We need to get them done more quickly than the normal timescales in the good times.”

Mr Alexander refused to give clarity on timescales for the PFI review as recently as last month but insisted this morning that he wants to see something as soon as possible.

Speaking at the London Stock Exchange, Mr Alexander insisted there were “real strengths” to the private finance initiative, as well as the “well-known weaknesses”.

He said: “I am trying to get [the review] out as soon as I possibly can. We have had a lot of engagement with a wide range of people on it.

“There are some real strengths there as well as some well-known weaknesses and as soon as we can give some clarity on that the better.”

He added: “We are reforming PFI. I want to make sure we retain the benefits it can deliver.

“We have seen a high level of engagement with more than 150 responses to our consultation and around 100 stakeholder meetings.”

The PFI review is holding up major schemes such as the £2 billion PFI priority schools programme, though CN understands the government is still hoping to start procurement of the PFI schools in 2012.

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