Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hot day, cool conference

Temperatures in Clydach reached levels not experienced since spring. Inside the Forge Fach centre, business was dominated by constitutional amendments which only occasionally caused the pulse to race.

However, we passed a motion today which might draw some comment in the prints as we get closer to an election:

Conference notes:
1. The unfair settlement caused by the decades-old Barnett formula.
2. That the National Assembly for Wales is unable to borrow money or levy taxes.
3. That Labour and Plaid have ruled out using the Private Finance Initiative in the
health sector, meaning available money is not being used.

Conference believes that:
1. Private sector finance can make an important contribution to improving public
services in Wales.
2. The existing PFI model is outdated, poorly-conceived and not suitable to the current financial climate.
3. The investment of private sector finance in public services needs to be carefully
managed and regulated to protect the interests of taxpayers, service users and
local communities.
4. New more effective models for harnessing private sector finance can and should be
developed to deliver greater value of money for the taxpayer.

Conference calls on:
The Welsh Assembly Government to drop its politically-driven opposition to private sector finance and find effective ways of harnessing private sector finance to deliver much needed improvements to public services in Wales.

As far as traditional PFI goes, as introduced by the Conservatives and renamed by New Labour, the resolution is largely academic in the present financial situation. One of the arguments in favour of PFI was its ability to attract funds which were not available from government sources. One would suppose that any finance which was obtainable - and a public sector project, with its guaranteed income stream, might be the exception to the current credit drought - would be at prohibitive interest rates.

However, as Jenny Randerson made clear in proposing the motion, the intention is to be much more flexible. Third sector and community mutual societies would also come within its ambit. The important thing was not to be ruled by dogma: neither that which used dodgy arithmetic to justify dubious contracts in the anti-state cause, nor that which ruled out anything but state funding for public projects.

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