On April 11 we wrote the following in relation to the proposed St Athan military academy: “The loss of Package 2 means that the project is now calculated at £11 billion – but bear in mind the escalating costs of other privatisations and the potential fallout from the growing economic crisis.”
We also said of PFIs: “PFIs offer the illusion that governments are spending less money when in fact they are spending more, since they have to subsidise the profits of the privateers”
Since then the air has been thick with rumours that the project is in trouble. Having got their hands on a leaked MoD document, Private Eye have belatedly taken up the issue, exposing the doubts that exist in the minds of some of the top military over the false claims the project will save the MoD money, the unwillingness of trainers to relocate, and the possibility that the private training consortium will not be up to the job of training the military for the front line. The fact that spending on St Athan may not be kept off the governments’ books – a key appeal of PFIs – is a further reason why the MoD are getting cold feet.
Now the government have finally admitted that the contract with Metrix remains unsigned. Yesterday armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth, in a Commons reply, said “cost growth and the implications of the credit crunch on borrowing have been a significant factor.”
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Metrix are currently involved in a huge PR campaign, including an invitation-only “stakeholder” meeting in St Athan village this Monday and exhibitions in other local towns. The campaign is described as a ‘consultation’, but it is a strange type of consultation that involves “the distribution of newsletters, a regularly updated web-site, workshops and a series of public exhibitions”. Perhaps “propaganda offensive” would be a better term.
Anti-St Athan activists are already finding ways of intervening into this “consultation” to make it rather more of a dialogue. If you want to know more, why not bombard firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions? A good healthy protest movement can do no harm in further discouraging investors from this egregious scheme.