PracticePeople In PracticePFI row takes election centre stage

PFI row takes election centre stage

It is not often accounting becomes a general election issue. But the old off-balance sheet trick that is the Private Finance Initiative will decide who wins the marginal West Midlands seat of Wyre Forest.

There, a furious local row over the provision of health services is spilling onto the national political stage.

Retired physician Robert Taylor is standing as an independent against the sitting MP, Labour’s David Lock.

Unlike most independents, however, Taylor has a very good chance of winning, overturning a 6,946 majority at the same time.

At the heart of the campaign is a Pounds 130m PFI deal.

During the 1997 election campaign Labour promised a new hospital forWorcester.

But after taking office, it became clear it would adopt the PFI plan leadingto the centralisation of health services in the region.

A brand new hospital would be built in Worcester but services would be downgraded elsewhere including Kidderminster, the very hospital where Taylor worked for 23 years.

Supporters of Taylor say this means the people of Kidderminster have to travel almost 20 miles for casualty or emergency surgery services.

Locals were outraged and thus began the politicisation of the mild-mannered physician.

Generating strong local support his Health Concern group is now the largest party on Wyre Forest District Council with 19 seats.

Now a Westminster seat is a possibility especially as the Liberal Democrats agreed this week not to contest the seat and the Tories look set to come adistant third.

Taylor even has Led Zeppelin lead singer and local resident Robert Plant to support his campaign to restore services to Kidderminster.

The result should be known around 2am on the morning Friday 8 June.

In a sterile general election, punchy deputy prime ministers apart, Taylor runs the risk of injecting interest into politics.

Links

One in ten FDs will not vote

PFI/PPP deals can aid public sector

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