Mr Leigh, you see, has said that the construction costs for the 2012 Olympics are going to be much higher than the Government currently says.
The surprising thing here isn’t the observation that there’s going to be a massive over-spend, but that Mr Leigh should find it necessary to repeat what’s been said many times already by other people. You don’t have to be a construction expert to realise that very large, complicated one-off construction projects invariably cost far more than the bean-counters originally estimate.
The cost of the Olympic project has already gone up a couple of times. Once because the Government forgot to include the VAT - huh! Even I can remember to do that - and another time because they forgot to point out that the estimate was in 2004 prices and they hadn’t factored in inflation through to 2012.
Although we already know that the Olympics are going to cost a bomb, the Public Accounts Committee is working itself up into a froth over the rising cost, and quite right too.
At the latest committee hearing, Mr Leigh carpeted Jonathan Stevens, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s top civil servant, and told him to his face that he had no confidence in his ability to plan ahead.
While Mr Stevens was reeling from that one, another committee member, Don Touhig, weighed in by describing the story so far as “the most catastrophic financial mismanagement in the history of the world”.
Finally, it was the turn of veteran Labour MP Austin Mitchell who turned his anger not on his own Government, but on the construction industry which he said has the ODA by the “short Olympic rings” (a phrase which is ultimately meaningless but nevertheless manages to sound rather disgusting).
Mr Mitchell might be right, but I think it’s quite wrong to blame the construction industry. Who - knowing there was a £2.7 billion contingency fund available - would not like to get their hands on some of it? It would be such a shame to see so much lovely money going to waste.
Having rather unexpectedly found themselves in charge at Holyrood, the Scottish Nationalists now have to put into practice their alternative to the UK Government’s PPP procurement model, the Scottish Futures Trust.
The best way to describe SFT, is that it’s like PPP with the incentive removed. Private companies will be allowed to build and operate hospitals, schools and other public projects; but if they make too much money out of their investments they must give some of it away.
On the face of it, SFT doesn’t look as attractive as PPP. So what’s it got going for it? Well, the extra profits would go to charity - which is nice. And you wouldn’t get big businesses siphoning off large wads of public money (as if they would!). But mainly it’s not English; and for the SNP, that’s probably enough.