Company handling Northampton Schools PFI fined hundreds of thousands for poor performance

The Duston School was built as part of the Private Finance Initiative schools project.
The Duston School was built as part of the Private Finance Initiative schools project.

Large fines have been handed to the organisation involved with the multi-million pound Northampton schools Private Finance Initiative because of poor performance.

Northamptonshire County Council has hit Northampton Schools Limited with penalties of £823,000 so far this financial year because the facilities management has not been up to scratch.

The 30-year schools PFI contract was signed in 2006 at a price of £800m and saw 43 schools in Northampton either built from scratch or remodelled.

It currently costs the costs the authority £29m a year to service and there are 18 years left to run until the contract is fully paid for.

Multi-national Amey has since the start of the PFI had the contract for the facilities management, which runs the contracts through Amber Infrastructure.

A finance report to be discussed at the council’s cabinet meeting tomorrow gives more details of the problems.

It says: “The poor facilities management performance has been assertively managed by the council using all the contractual powers available, including the issuing of several breach notices and the escalation of complaints to the managing director of the facilities management provider.

“This has resulted in the development in January 2019 of an agreed performance improvement plan between the council’s CEO, the managing director of the facilities management provider and the managing director of Northampton Schools Limited (the Special Purpose Vehicle established for the delivery of the PFI project).

“The current level of performance is improving, albeit slowly, and much more progress needs to be made.”

The authority told the Local Democracy Reporting service that breach notices had not been served on any individual school and had been issued in response to ‘administrative aspects’ of the contract.

Five Northampton secondary schools were built under the PFI agreement, including Duston School which was the first to open in 2007.

PFIs have been used across the country since 2003 and involve private companies rather than the government funding large-scale public works such as schools and hospitals.

They have proved controversial in some cases because of the high costs of paying them back.