Charity version of private finance initiative recommended to political parties

Social enterprises want to develop 'public social partnerships' that channel money into communities

Representatives from social enterprises have urged politicians from all three political parties to develop a third sector version of the private finance initiative.

Matthew Thomson, chief executive of social enterprise the London Community Resource Network, and Ceri Jones, policy officer at the Social Enterprise Coalition, said they would like the Government to create a ‘public social partnership'.

This would be similar to the private finance initiative deals used to construct many hospitals and schools, they said, but with third sector partners instead of private ones.

Thomson and Jones made the proposals at an election debate in London on Wednesday organised by a small group of third sector bodies, including the coalition and chief executives body Acevo.

The debate featured Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector, Nick Hurd, shadow third sector minister, and Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat third sector spokeswoman.

Jones said the PSP model was something the coalition was researching.

With a traditional PFI, a private contractor raises finance and carries out a contract for a local authority or government department, which then makes payments to the contractor over a long period.

Jones said the risk to the taxpayer was usually greater than that to the private contractor, and that much of the money was channelled into private business rather than community benefit.

"We would like to see a model where profit was locked in for community benefit," she said. "There are a number of ways this could be done – whether through a reduction in customer costs, as was done by Welsh Water, or the organisation carrying out the contract agreeing to create new services."


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