Northern Ireland autumn sale begins

Following on from Peter Hain’s speech about Northern Ireland paying its way and moving resources to the frontline, the British government has announced plans to sell off almost all of its civil service buildings and then lease them back from their new owners.

Apparently, the move will save 200 million in refurbishment costs. Stormont has been spared.

From Hain’s speech:

“Unless we can address these problems we will not be in a position to face that future with the purpose and drive required. So the Government cannot simply ‘mind the shop’ awaiting restoration of devolution, but must take the necessary decisions, however difficult and controversial.”

On the need for reform, he said “There is a real choice for the politicians and people of Northern Ireland here. These reforms will be ambitious. They will challenge the status quo. They will disrupt power bases and vested interests. They will lead to a radical shift of resources from the back room to the frontline.”

  • John Doheny

    The latest report from the Catalyst thinktank in Britain finds that the majority of PFI savings are by way of lower wages and worse conditions for staff.

    The projected savings are by way of comparison with the ‘public sector comparator’ which is basically the government’s way of fixing the result in favour of their policy of PPPs and PFI.

    The key thing to watch is the transfer of risk and its valuation. They make it up as they go along.

    By the way you did not mention that the PFIer does not have to use the existing building stock but could sell them off. I don’t think the value of the estate is what it is within the report. It is totally undervalued to suit the PFI model and the upfront payment by the PFIer.

    This payment is made in case the PFIer goes bankrupt and the government buildings are sold off.

  • Belfastwhite

    …And a great job they did in the RVH carpark fiasco they’ll be charging to use the lift to the job club in Gloucester House next.

  • The Dog

    Sell all of the stormont estate and all of the Belfast City Centre Offices.

    DEcentralise the civil service.

    Education on the shankill (I bet the land is cheap)

    DARD in Eniskillen

    Health in Omagh (I undersytand there is a soon to be vacated Trust owned site)

    Regional Development in Newry (to something about cross-border transport)

    DETI in Derry – drive forawrd North West economic regeneration.

    DEL on the Mackies site (UU pulled out)

    The list goes on.

    All these would be cheaper options both in terms of selling the land in high value areas and buying it cheaper spots. Lower rates bills. Less traffic in Belfast.

    Balanced regional development (now there’s an idea)

    The evidence is starting to shake down against PFI models.

    Not just in terms of jobs, wages and conditions But also in terms of costs.

    The companies that come in a run these serives do a worse job and take huge profits for shareholders.

    Just look at MSRA – this problem is made worse because generally private companies do the cleaning and are cheap – less staff hours cleaning, less training, lower material costs.

  • Scotsman

    Is this PFI? Surely the NIO is just selling land and buildings and leasing them back, giving them more flexibility. If they can negotiate a fair rent I don’t see the problem.

    In future, it might take part of any normal speculative office development, as happens elsewhere.

    It’s only offices…

  • idunnomeself

    I don’t understand why you think lower staff costs are a bad thing from the point of view of tax payers.

    We pay for the service we get, not to provide cushy jobs.

    Tax payers should be paying as little as they can

  • pacart

    There have been a litany of disasterous PFIs across the water, the taxpayer usually ends up paying 4/5 times as much for a shoddy building or a worse service. Of all the initiatives pursued by New Labour, IRAQ excepted, they have been the biggest disaster. George Montibot in the Guardian has written extensively about them, and it is not pretty reading. Perhaps this is something the political parties here could come together against, as opposed to arguing over flags and such like. Any chance?

  • Scotsman

    PFI for new projects is not the same as sale and leaseback of existing state-owned offices!

  • Patrick Brown

    But it amounts to much the same thing – saving a bit of money in the short term, paying a lot more in the long term, and Tony’s friends in the private sector making a profit at the taxpayer’s expense for doing next to nothing.

  • GavBelfast

    Simplistic and selfish thinking on my part, I’m sure, but when I heard the cicvil service and its main union’s angst at this on the radio this morning, I began to feel it was a good idea.

  • Brian Boru

    Hopefully this kind of thing will make the costs of a hypothetical UI easier for the South to bear without tax-rises being necessary, bearing in mind that by the time a majority in NI want a UI (assuming it happens) the South will be much richer.