The Newbury College scheme is notorious in PFI circles. This pathfinder project further education sector is the first of such schemes to achieve financial close. Uncharted waters have brought with them numerous problems, not least the fact that there is no Secretary of State guarantee behind further education schemes – unlike PFIs in pretty much every other sector.
Bevan Ashford has advised Newbury College from the outset more than four years ago. Altheimer & Gray was instructed last summer, when Helaba became involved. The novelty of the project inevitably meant that Bevan Ashford drew on PFI experience in other sectors. But a particular bone of contention for Altheimer & Gray was the use of the health PFI template, on the grounds that it shifts the commercial balance away from the private sector. An enormous amount of time was spent negotiating that balance, but the project has at least escaped the uncertainty now faced by others in the sector. The new Learning and Skills Council, about to replace the Further Education Funding Council, has yet to make its policy on PFIs clear.