Saturday, 9 June 2012

NHS Estates?

I'm intrigued. The Postulant sent me a link to a report which stated that the properties arm of the National Health Service had been turned into a "company" to sell off all the acres of land the NHS owns, but doesn't use. There must be an awful lot of it because the new "company," imaginatively named PropCo, is expected to become the "owner" of land and property valued at several billion pounds. I'm intrigued for several reasons, not least because the NHS is always pleading for more money, yet has apparently had billions tied up in unused property. Secondly, I'm very intrigued by the constitution of this new "company" which appears to have been carved out of the former NHS Estates, the division of the Department of Health which used to "manage" and maintain all the NHS properties.

If PropCo has been set up along the same lines as all the previous "Executive Agencies," I would suggest there is a scam in progress. Under the "Treasury Rules" the Executive Agencies are set up as a "business" burdened by not being permitted to take an overdraft from a bank, saddled with an inflated "deemed mortgage" for any property it is established in (and it isn't allowed to sell those or move to more affordable premises either) and no operating capital. The "deemed mortgage" is also established at a large interest rate, typically anywhere between 3 and 6 times the rate you'd get from a bank, and then blamed at regular meetings with the relevant Cabinet Minister for failing to show a profit. There is a long list of such "Executive Agencies" which have "failed" and been broken up and their assets sold off to "preferred bidders" on the Treasury's List of Preferred Bidders.

I can certainly understand the selling off of unused property. What I find a little less understandable is the settiing up of a "company" to do so. Surely the NHS Estates could have done this directly, perhaps even on the understanding that the money made from the sale was to be ploughed into upgrading existing premises or even renewing or replacing some? Now it seems likely that any money - and going on previous form on matters like this, it seems unlikely there will be any real profit - will simply vanish into the Black Hole called Whitehall to be squandered on some other over budget and out of control project.

One thing I am absolutely certain of. If there is a profit to be made from this, it will be made by whoever buys the properties from PropCo, not by PropCo. So, as the saying is, we will have to "follow the money" to see who, and perhaps what, is behind this. If, as is suggested, PropCo is "privatised" at some point, we can be very certain that it will then be systematically asset stripped, as have all the other Executive Agencies, and the unprofitable rump will then be allowed to die an unnatural death by a thousand cuts.

As ever, the taxpayer will pick up the cost.

1 comment:

  1. I'm having trouble linking to the source on my phone, but it might be a good idea to paste it into your post.