In England the Labour Party is committing itself to not introducing any new PFI schemes and ending at least some of those in existence. A PFI scheme is one where a private organisation invests in its ownership of an asset, such as a school or hospital, and leases that asset to a public organisation such as a local authority or health board – usually on the condition that the private organisation can profit from all maintenance contracts.
In Wales, the Welsh Government decided to end the introduction of PFI schemes in 2001. At the time we were ridiculed and lambasted by New Labour who claimed that we were sacrificing the quality of public service to some outdated commitment to public ownership.
Looking back we can see that the new Welsh Government was turning its back on both the marketisation of public services and the centralised state bureaucracies of old. It was pioneering a model of decentralised public services which engaged citizens in creating and developing their own communities and networks of mutual support.
We understood that citizen centred public services could not be achieved when assets were owned by distant and detached global corporations. We understood also that PFI was passing on huge costs to future generations in an unsustainable manner.
As the debate on PFI re-emerges in 2017, it would be good if some acknowledgement was made of the record of innovation in Wales.