Thursday, September 08, 2011

The debate continues

The war of words between the politicians in Bigastro continued with the spokesperson for the PSOE, Raúl Valerio Medina speaking at the gates of the nursery school yesterday.

Amongst other things, he said the socialists believe there is already a  pact between the new council and a company to privatise Bigastrin and that the  new director of the school, who he claims was handpicked by the mayor, is in agreement with this.

In the manifesto of the UNPLC, Aurelio Murcia talked of privatising some of the councils services. To illustrate the point he said, if you only need a plumber four times a year, it does not make sense to have one permanently on your payroll. When you need a plumbing job done, you simply hire one for that occasion.

The new councillor went on to explain that there are a lot of council services that could be contracted out without compromising quality. According to his calculations, contracting out would bring substantial savings to the town. I don’t recall whether his proposals included the running of the infant school Bigastrin or not. I would have to route out my copy of the manifesto to see if that was the case.

In England, many local authorities introduced PFI (Private Funding Initiative) schemes to save them the burden of running their schools. Liverpool council, for example,  looked at offloading the dilapidated school that I worked in to a private company.

As the Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Finance and Premises, I spent many hours looking into the proposals that were being made. The deal was that we would get the school refurbished in exchange for the company taking control of the budget for the building over a specified period of time.

Obviously the companies bidding for the scheme wanted to make profit out of the deal so the refurbishment was going to be kept to a minimum as was the cost of premises management. We had already contracted out cleaning of the school to save money and suffered the consequences of a company that could not deliver the service levels we required so we had an idea of what PFI would mean to us.

Having examined the proposals in depth, my advice to the Headteacher and the Governing body was not to accept the idea.  Eventually the scheme was scrapped for Anfield which then became part of the socialist  government’s Academy Schools scheme.

Many of the PFI schemes that did go ahead in other parts of the country proved to be disastrous for the schools involved. They may have enjoyed a bit of a spruce up initially but long term, they have suffered the dire consequences of profit led premises management.

If this is what the new council have in mind for Bigastrin, then the parents have every need to feel cautious.

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