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Lift firms could get a fresh lease of life

Lift companies could soon be used to deliver a range of local authority construction projects outside of the health sector, according to Lift Council executive director David Pokora.

The public-private joint ventures formed through the Local Improvement Finance Trust programme are currently used to improve and develop frontline primary and community care facilities.

But with health minister Andrew Lansley set to abolish all primary care trusts by 2013, the future role of the Lift companies has been unclear.

Mr Pokora said at a Construction News event last week that PCTs could transfer their shareholdings in Lift companies to local authorities to allow the procurement of a broader range of schemes. “In many Lift companies the local authority is already invited to function as if it was a shareholder.” Local authorities could use Lift for regeneration, leisure, social care and housing as well as health.

Mr Pokora said the government would have to decide whether local authorities or community health partnerships would take on the PCTs’ shares of the Lift companies.

But he warned: “Local authorities cannot afford a few million pounds to account for the value of the shareholding.”

He added: “Lift companies’ supply chains will have to be enhanced to include services different from those they have delivered up to now.”

Mr Pokora insisted established Lift companies had a bright future despite public spending cuts.

“There will be fewer, more appropriately located buildings delivering healthcare facilities, and there is a role for Lift companies in making that happen.”

But he warned that the Express Lift framework - developed to allow quicker appointment of a private sector partner - was unlikely to be used in the future.

“Express Lift will have very little take-up from here on in,” he said. “The contracting party is the PCT, and there are not going to be any PCTs. It is frustrating for those on the framework but it is reality.”