The Scandal of PPP

Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor

Two articles today highlight the failure of the Government in securing value for money for the taxpayer in creating the PPP scheme which led to Metronet's collapse.

The Economist has a typically intelligent piece on the fallout of the Metronet debacle, and what it means to taxpayers:

In a valiant attempt at news management, Transport for London (TfL), which operates the Underground, announced the official payout along with a big dollop of new cash (£39 billion through 2018) from the central government's Department for Transport to support the capital's buses, trains and so forth. Gordon Brown's government will have been grateful for TfL's attempts to bury the bad news: the PPP was pushed through by the prime minister himself when he was chancellor of the exchequer, over the objections of most transport-watchers and of TfL itself.

LondonUnlocked covered the news of the £2bn bail-out yesterday, though it is astounding that no Ministerial heads have rolled over the affair. As Christian Wolmar reasonably argues in the Guardian today: one has been held to account for this debacle. Gordon Brown, who insisted on a PPP rather than more conventional ways of funding the refurbishment of the tube, has moved next door and his transport secretary at the time, Stephen Byers, is living in happy obscurity on the backbenches. PriceWaterhouseCoopers whose idea it was, is now benefiting from new contracts to sort out the mess, Brown's special adviser who did the deal, Shriti Vadera, is now a minister, while Denis Tunnicliffe, the London Underground boss at the time, is ensconced in the Lords.

It beggars belief that this shocking abuse of tax-payers' funds has not been highlighted more either in the Mayoral race, or the wider media. This is mismanagement on an epic scale that hits the pockets of people across the country.

As Mr Wolmar argues, "with the Tories stuck in their mould of supporting the private sector come what may, and the Liberal Democrats out of their depth on this issue, there is no coherent voice to campaign on what is a very major scandal that can be laid at the door of the current prime minister." This is an awful truth at a time of increased media interest in London's affairs.


LondonUnlocked will begin a fresh interview series in the next couple of weeks, starting with Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor Brian Paddick, and we hope to press this issue with him.