HC Deb 31 October 1995 vol 265 cc231-2W
Mr. Sweeney

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what further measures he proposes under the private finance initiative to encourage investment by the private sector in local authority facilities. [40941]

Mr. Hague

I can today announce a further package of measures to encourage and facilitate private sector investment in local authority services in Wales. These change the capital finance rules to allow local authorities to harness private finance and management expertise in the upgrading or replacement of facilities.

The changes will encourage authorities to enter into the "design, build, finance and operate" type contracts for the replacement or upgrading by the private sector of facilities such as schools, libraries and leisure centres; give authorities greater scope for financing the replacement of facilities out of the proceeds from sales of existing assets; ensure that arrangements for joint use of facilities by an authority and the private sector do not trigger financial penalties; and make it easier for authorities to use energy services packages which improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.

In addition, more resources for PFI projects will be generated by reducing from 50 per cent. to 25 per cent. the rate of set aside for debt redemption arising from the sale of surplus educational assets during the two years commencing in April 1996. With other elements of the package this opens up exciting opportunities for the upgrading of local authority schools and the rationalisation of school provision.

Draft regulations will be published for consultation within the next few weeks.

I am considering whether there should be a similar relaxation in the rules relating to set aside in the case of receipts from the sale of county farms. A decision will be taken in the context of the rural White Paper to be published later this year.

I hope that the new Welsh unitary authorities will take full advantage of the opportunities offered by these changes when they take up their new responsibilities in April next year.

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