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PFI announcement 'weeks away', says Infrastructure UK chief

A highly-anticipated announcement on the future of the private finance initiative is weeks away, according to the man leading the review.

But Geoffrey Spence, chief executive of Infrastructure UK, also played down the future role of a new PFI model when he spoke at the Government Construction Summit, at the Plaza Place Hotel in London, this morning.

Mr Spence tried to allay concerns over the time taken for an announcement, which were raised by fellow panelist Roger Robinson, chief executive officer of Laing O’Rourke’s European operations, and audience member Steve Fox, chief executive of BAM Nuttall.

Mr Spence said: “I think you will hear more from the government in the next few weeks on PFI reform, that is one thing I can say.

“But that also means I can’t tell you what it is because ministers will want to make the announcement first.”

Construction News reported in May that the government was aiming to make an announcement on PFI before the summer recess. It launched the review in November last year and has been considering responses since the beginning of the year.

Mr Spence pointed out that much of the PFI work had been done. He said the country did not need more district general hospitals, for example, with London arguably needing fewer, while most government buildings were complete.

“We have got to be careful here about expectation,” he said. 

“If you look at what PFI financed historically, we have already done a lot of it.”

He added that there was a clear need for schools and said PFI “still has a role to play” but will need to be changed “because politically the version we have got is clearly unacceptable to all parties”.

Contractors put their own responses to the review in December last year.

The Associatio for Consultncy and Engineering recently published a report setting out five new alternatives to the single model.

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