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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Private Finance Initiative: part two
Keywords Internet, Private finance initiative, The Web
Private Finance Initiative: part two
In the last issue of this journal I took an initial overview of the Public Finance Initiative (FPI), focusing on the government-sponsored information sites. In this issue I shall identify some of the sites aimed, more specifically, at the chartered surveyor.
The first of these is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor Home Page found at http://www.rics.org.uk. Since I reviewed this site in Vol. 15 No.2 it has undergone a number of changes, most of them, in my opinion, detrimental. Many of the pages are now virtually unreadable having a dark grey background and black print; however, I digress. There is nothing in the Index about the Private Finance Initiative, however a search on "PFI" revealed many pages. A search on "Private Finance Initiative" resulted in a different list which suggests a less than perfect indexing system.
Many of the links are to a half-page press release or news item but by choosing the most recent dates (where dates are given) a useful picture of the current situation can be gleaned. For instance a look at the link to "news capital advisory group feb98" took me to http://www.rics.org.uk/ csm/current/230298.html. This is a page of information on NHS Capital Projects and the new National Health Service Capital Advisory Group (CPAG). This page also includes a contact name (Sara Howard in the RICS Policy Unit) to contact for further information.
There are also links to more research orientated work, such as the link to a paper by Nigel Dubben (Kingston University) and Angus McIntosh (Richard Ellis) entitled "The Private Finance Initiative: A panacea for the problems of towns and cities or a short term political device?". The link takes you to a reasonable abstract of the paper which can, if desired, be downloaded in full (fifteen pages) in Adobe Acrobat format. The URL of the abstract is http://www.rics.org.uk/research/conferences/dubben.html
Many commercial organisations now advertise their Private Finance Initiative-related services on the Web. Some of these pages, such as KPMG's page at http://www.kpmg.co.uk/uk/direct/corpfin/privatef/index.html, are little more than a list of services available from the company. However, others give a more comprehensive overview, even if this is based on their own work. Coopers & Lybrand's page at http://www.uk.coopers.com/coopers/pfi/index.html, gives details of its services with links to ten sectors that it has worked in, such as Health, Transport and Defence. Each sector link contains details of projects with which it has been involved, together with basic information on the area. For instance the Local Government link informs us that "The new capital regulations published by the Department of the Environment in October 1996 provide unparalleled opportunities for local authority private finance schemes. These regulations allow for qualifying projects that meet the PFI criteria to achieve additional credit approvals and to secure additional revenue finance overcoming problems associated with capital allocations and affordability."
Berwin Leighton also provides more comprehensive PFI information. This company, jointly with DTZ Debenham Thorpe, sponsor The Treasury Task Force: Private Finance Projects Team Home Page (http://www.treasury-projects-taskforce.gov.uk) which was reviewed in the previous issue of this journal. Their PFI material is available via a direct link from the Private Finance Projects Team Home Page http://www.treasury-projects-taskforce.gov.uk/bl/index.html. As well as advertising their services under the headings "Unrivalled experience" ,"Setting the standard" and "Track record" they offer a case study style review of a project with which they are currently involved.
This project is the redevelopment of the Cruciform Building and is valued at £50 million. The stated project aim is "to convert the architecturally-significant former University College Hospital into state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities for the newly-merged Royal Free School of Medicine and University College Medical School the largest such facility in the UK". The case study covers, inter alia, The Private Finance Initiative Procurement Process, Getting the Project off the Ground and Working with the Preferred Bidder. It makes useful reading for anyone considering the Initiative.
The Price Waterhouse PFI site can be found at http://www.pw.com/uk/pfihome.htm and is largely an advertisement for their services in this area. One service they offer which may be of particular interest to Chartered Surveyors considering becoming involved in the Private Finance Initiative is PFI training. The Price Waterhouse course, which runs over two days, "is highly participative and provides a basic grounding in key concepts of PFI and the practicalities of a PFI procurement". These courses, a joint venture with the Civil Service College, were initially aimed at Civil Servants but "a number of courses have attracted participants from private sector organisations with a practical interest in PFI, including construction companies, legal advisers and surveyors. The combination of views from both the public and private sectors, combined in one training event, is very powerful and adds considerably to the learning experience on both sides."
Masons, solicitors and privy council agents, offer considerable information on property and construction matters over the Internet. Their well designed Home Page can be found at http://www.masons.com. The page has a simple and clear layout and in the Library section there are several publications of relevance to the landed professions. Most pertinent to this article is their relatively new publication: Masons' Private Finance Initiative Review (http://www.masons.com/library/newslets/pfirev). There have been half a dozen issues of this since May 1997, the most recent published in January 1998.
Each issue contains information on new PFI developments and includes details of recent relevant publications and forthcoming conferences (with a slight Masons bias!). The more recent editions also include a Specialist Briefing section with topics ranging from reports of the first two prisons to be financed under PFI to a detailed critique of The Bates Review. The newsletter is written in a clear concise style and is accessible to people not expert in the area. Masons' Property, Planning and Enivronment department (http://www.masons.com/ppe) also produce another useful looking newsletter, "Land Marks is a new publication from Masons' Property, Planning & Environment group, covering developments in property law". However, I was unable to link successfully to the site. Perhaps by the time this is published the problem will have been remedied.
I hope, over the last two issues of this journal, I have given some useful pointers to just a few of the many hundreds (thousands?) of Internet sites giving information on the Private Finance Initiative. If anyone is aware of any particularly useful sites on this (or any other) topic that they would like me to bring to the attention of a wider audience please contact me at the address/e-mail above.
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development, University of ReadingE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org