Thursday, 25 March 2010

Jarvis PLC - a narrow escape or warning about the future?

News that Jarvis PLC has gone into administration may revive old memories amongst Brent councillors and headteachers.

Ten years ago the then Labour Council was negotiating for a Private Finance Inititiave deal for its schools, one of the biggest deals in the country. The PFI would have handed the schools over to private companies.  The company would rebuild the schools and take over their maintenance and be paid back over the 25 years.

Jarvis was one of the two bidders left in the ring and local headteachers were invited to the Town Hall council chamber to see presentations which were of course glossy.  I quite upset one Jarvis suit when I asked him if about criticisms of Jarvis's rail operations and what that said about their fitness to maintain our schools. He hotly argued that rail maintenance was a totally different side of the business.  Jarvis later had to admit liability for the Potters Bar railway accident.  It eventually sold off its school building arm to a French company.

After spending more than 2 years on the project and hundreds of thousands of pounds, we returned after the summer holiday in 2001 to find that the officer responsible for PFI had mysteriously disappeared - we assumed he had been sacked. The Council announced that the project to rebuild 17 secondary and primary schools had been abandoned for 'reasons outside the council's control'. Mystery still hangs around what really happened...

Just imagine the what could have happened to Brent schools if Jarvis had won the contract.  Would we now be spending hundreds of thousands of pounds keeping the company afloat?

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