A private finance project in Glasgow that could see in-house school meals caterers ousted in favour of private contractors has been backed by the Government as a model for the rest of the country.
Glasgow City Council is planning to bring in private firms to repair run-down secondary schools and build two new ones. Private firms also look set to win contracts to provide support services, including catering, at the schools (Caterer, 5 February, page 8).
A similar scheme in Falkirk has seen contractor Chartwells awarded the 25-year contract to provide meals in five new schools.
Paymaster-General Geoffrey Robinson last week singled out the Glasgow project as an example for the nation. Treasury and Scottish Office officials are now helping Glasgow to draw up the final plans.
Under Government guidelines, in-house direct service organisations (DSOs) appear to be banned from bidding for contracts awarded under the private finance initiative (PFI). But they are now fighting to be allowed to bid. The Association of Direct Labour Organisations has produced a report arguing that the guidelines are misleading and that DSO involvement in PFI schemes is legal.
Ian Wasson, vice-chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association, commented: "Many DSOs have won their bids in open competition and made substantial savings. I see no reason why DSOs should not be allowed to get involved in PFI projects." He also questioned whether a25-year contract could provide councils with the best value for money.