PFI and a sup at the Tup

This evening’s campaign session went well – with helpers coming in from Haringey and Streatham we covered a large area of Barnsbury with our survey, while I followed up casework about the PFI on street properties.The PFI is a classic case of you wouldn’t start from here… the old Labour council bought up period properties when Islington’s house prices were rock bottom, filled them with council tenants, and then could not afford to maintain them. The Lib Dem council had an election pledge to do up the houses back in 2002 and has been pursuing that goal ever since. But in the crazy world of public finance under Gordon Brown, the obvious way – to raise money on the strength of future rents – is not allowed. And so the council has embarked on a series of PFI deals where the tenants stay as tenants, but the management & repairs are contracted to a private company, long-term.  It’s fine when things go well; but when things go wrong (and anyone who’s ever had the builders in will know that things always do…) it’s even more frustrating for residents with the potential buck-passing between the contractors, the PFI partners, Homes for Islington and the Council.

And if you’re a leaseholder like me, you have little or no say over the works, but still have to foot the bill. At least there is a cap on leaseholder PFI charges, unlike other major works; despite campaigners’ attempts to allow councils to cap the charges.

Not all PFIs are bad. In fact Cloudesley Street, one of the areas we called on tonight, has had the benefit of the new streetlights delivered by a very successful PFI – and new paving delivered by traditional council capital spending.  Both are great. I’ve no problem with PFIs when they work. But we do need to keep the accountability clear for when things go wrong.

We finished up with a team drink in the Islington Tap. Confusingly this used to be called the Islington Tup. We came here a lot when we lived in Barnsbury. I’m not sure when the name changed, but the pub is still great. It’s a big airy room, with an interesting vaulted ceiling at the south end where the food is served. Tonight they had the Arsenal-Spartak match on and we got there in time for the 2nd goal – pinot grigio & chips – a great end to the evening.

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