The CBI is setting up a PFI lobby group, to be headed by John Pilkington of support services group Amey
The first meeting of the group, which will be made up of about a dozen members, is scheduled to take place next Tuesday. A spokesperson for the CBI said:
"The PFI is complex and it is difficult for non-practitioners to master all the issues, but by drawing on the wide experience of our members we will be able to articulate the views of the industry far better than before."
Pilkington is managing director of Amey Ventures, the PFI procurement arm of Amey. The company is preferred bidder on a Building Schools for the Future scheme in Bradford.
It is understood that the Treasury is keen to be involved in the working group, and will shortly be sending representatives to address its members. Neil Bentley, director of public services at the CBI, is also likely to attend the group's meetings.
James Worron, senior policy adviser at the CBI's public services group, has been setting up the group for the past two months. He said:
"We needed somewhere to go to talk to our members, so that we could take a view on PFI policy that represents them.
"We've had some discussions with suppliers and advisers, such as lawyers, to find out what's going on and that will feed into the group's work."
The main concern is the soft services changes
James Worron, CBI
Worron added that CBI members had a number of concerns about high bid costs, delays to projects and the need for greater standardisation of contracts.
One of the areas that the group is likely to look at is the Treasury's proposal last month that PFI bidders will have to make a stronger case for providing soft services, such as cleaning and catering. These provide a consistent, long-term income stream for contractors.
However, the Treasury has questioned whether including soft services in PFI provides the public sector with good value for money. Worron said: "The main concern is the soft services changes. Members feel that PFI works better when soft services are in the contract. It could be an unnecessary dilution."
The public services group plans to gather evidence over the next few months to back up its position and then present it to the Treasury. The CBI held a breakfast with the PFI industry on Tuesday, where the soft services issue featured prominently.
Pilkington has been managing director of Amey Ventures since March 2004, when he succeeded Dougie Sutherland.
Should soft services be included in PFI contracts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org