Pimlico governors demand inquiry

20 Jan 00
The governors of Pimlico School have called for an urgent meeting with ministers and demanded a public inquiry into the planned Private Finance Initiative scheme earmarked for the school.

21 January 2000

In a last-ditch attempt to dissuade the government from going ahead with the scheme, the governors are hoping that their entrenched opposition to the proposal will force ministers to pull the plug.

However, it is the Department for Education and Employment which has the bigger headache. A decision for or against the Pimlico scheme will have wide-ranging consequences for the government's favoured option of PFI to pump money into the public sector.

Neither option is hugely palatable to officials. The government could get the scheme dropped and sanction the refurbishment of the school, which will dismay the pro-PFI lobby.

The second option – to go ahead against the wishes of the governors – would attract serious criticism and reinforce the government's highly interventionist reputation.

Recent pronouncements from the DfEE have suggested that it is prepared to move ahead with the PFI deal, with or without the governors. At the beginning of January, the department refused to confirm that it would end the project if the full support of the governors was not forthcoming.

Pimlico's vice chair of governors, Michael Ball, said there was a lot of guesswork going on. He added: 'The only way forward is above our heads and we must now wait for the government to react. We remain opposed to the scheme.'

A spokesman for the DfEE said: 'Ministers have received the letter from the governors and are considering a decision.'

If the government did intervene, the process, which has already lasted five years, could continue indefinitely.


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