Northern Ireland asked to embrace non-profit PPPs

23 May 02
Northern Ireland will push ahead with public-private partnerships but with a difference if a report published this week is approved.

24 May 2002

The review of PPPs commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive recommends that projects should not contain any element of privatisation, should focus on social partnership and might involve not-for-profit enterprises.

The report was written by a working group which included the province's CBI, the NI committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NICICTU) and representatives from the voluntary sector.

'Privatisation appears to be suitable for public service delivery only if it is applied to services that are financially freestanding and if public funding is not vital to preserving the public interest,' said the working group. 'This is not the case for most of the public services being delivered in Northern Ireland.'

It stressed that joint ventures and partnerships with 'non-profit distributing entities' are attractive forms of PPPs and that the voluntary and community sector might play a role. The Department for Regional Development is currently exploring the potential of not-for-profit organisations to invest in infrastructure, using the model of Glas Cymru, the company that owns Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water).

Design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) contracts and concessions (DBFO contracts, from which the contractor extracts ongoing revenue from charges) are regarded as the other preferred PPP options for Northern Ireland.

Initially, all parties on the working group broadly supported the conclusions of the report, with NICICTU saying it was 'satisfied with the thrust of the recommendations'. But, after pressure from Unison, it changed its statement to saying that it was 'dissatisfied'.

Patricia McKeown, acting regional secretary of Unison in NI and vice-chair of NICICTU, said: 'We believe that the original terms of reference created a forum for implementation of PPPs, rather than exploring all the options open to the Executive. It has become a review of PPPs in Northern Ireland, when it should have been a review of alternatives to public funding.'

The report's findings will now go out for public consultation until September.


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