The Treasury is planning to begin a PR offensive to counter unions' attacks on the PFI
The plan is to place positive stories about PFI projects in the regional press. Treasury officials have contacted contractors to ask them to nominate suitable schemes.

The initiative follows a meeting of the PPP Forum, a lobby group made up of PFI financiers, lawyers and contractors such as Amec, Bovis, Carillion and Bechtel. The latest gathering, last month, was also attended by Treasury spin doctors.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "There is empirical evidence that PFI is working. Ministers are out and about seeing for themselves the benefits to communities, and there will be more regional visits as projects come on stream."

The government is hoping that the positive messages about PFI from contractors will offset the effect of horror stories circulated to journalists by public sector union Unison.

Margie Jaffe, Unison's national officer, said the union would continue to highlight problems on PFI. She said: "We've always had a local strategy where our branches campaign against PFI schemes. For example, we've got a report coming out in a month on problems on the Swindon PFI hospital."

A source at one PFI contractor, who attended the PPP Forum meeting, said: "The Treasury is enlisting our help to tackle the provincial press.

It believes that PFI is a lost cause in the national press and wants the PPP Forum members to provide details of projects that it can use as part of a charm offensive in the regions."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis lambasted the government's plans to modernise the NHS, saying they were based on a "twisted ideology".

The battle comes as chancellor Gordon Brown gave an uncompromising speech at the TUC in Brighton this week. He said there would be "no retreat from demanding value for money as we reform our public services".