The Institute for Public Policy Research’s report on public
private partnerships failed to ask fundamental questions about the
impact of markets and for-profit operators on the delivery of
public services, experts in the field claimed last week,
writes Lauren Revans.
A report by the health policy and health services research unit
at the University College, London, argues that PPPs and private
finance initiatives could lead to greater privatisation and an end
to publicly-funded services free at the point of delivery.
It believes that the influential pro-Labour think-tank, whose
long-awaited report was published last month (News, page 3, 28
June), ignored and played down evidence of the true cost and
efficacy of public private partnerships, and the context in which
“Any honest and objective evaluation of the evidence shows that
the extension of PPPs will lead to ever-increasing costs for the
public sector and major public sector deficits, with consequent
cuts in access to, and the quality of, services provided,” it
concludes. “This raises the spectre of rationing and user
The research unit’s report was written on behalf of Catalyst, a
new left-of-centre think-tank backed by trade union leaders and set
up in 1998 to promote practical policies directed to the
redistribution of power wealth and opportunity.
It claims that the IPPR Commission failed to scrutinise the
operation of PPP or PFI contracts and incorrectly implied there was
a “level playing field when considering public v private”.
The IPPR Commission’s report warned against using PPPs and PFI
as a response to under-funding of public services, but went on to
endorse the government’s commitment to pursue greater private
sector involvement in public service provision.
The response report concludes that evidence on PFI in health –
notably omitted from the IPPR Commission report – highlights its
failure to deliver “affordable or appropriate” developments for the
“The high costs of PFI and the associated public service
reductions make it likely that individuals will become increasingly
responsible for paying for more elements of their care,” it
The reports authors’ go on to warn that Labour’s NHS Plan and
the Health and Social Care Act 2001 “make ample provision for
redefining social care and introducing charging and greater
privatisation of NHS services”.
– Trade union leaders met Prime Minister Tony Blair last week to
discuss concerns raised by the IPPR report about “creeping
privatisation”. The issue is due to be debated at the annual Trade
Union Congress conference in September thanks to a motion submitted
by leader of the Transport and General Workers’ Union Bill Morris
which dismisses the IPPR report as “a charter for privatisation”
and states that “congress regards public services as having a
social worth well beyond profit margins”.