Nationalising Special Purpose Vehicles to end PFI: A discussion of the costs and benefits

The paper by Dr Helen Mercer and Professor Dexter Whitfield is available via the Public Services International Research Unit, University of Greenwich.


The article’s principal purpose is to provide an initial set of costings relating to the proposal to end PFIs in the UK through nationalising the Special Purpose Vehicles. The article uses book value to estimate that the cost of compensating the shareholders of the SPVs on HM Treasury database would be between £2.3bn and £2.5bn. It further analyse the potential savings to public authorities. The article proposes that service contracts are renegotiated so that the public authorities contract directly with the providers, not via the SPV. This secures significant annual savings from the elimination of operating profits, of £1.4bn, indicating that nationalisation will pay for itself within two years. Further the article proposes to honour all outstanding liabilities but to secure substantial refinancing through a new body in which ownership of the SPVs will be vested.

Finally the article suggests that as service contracts are ended, either through break clauses or other reasons, the public authorities must bring provision ‘in-house’, ending outsourcing and also providing further savings from more rational and integrated provision. The approach has been developed on the basis of significant research into how PFIs operate and consideration of the range of alternative solutions to the PFI problem that have been put forward so far. These issues are also explained and developed in the article.