West Yorkshire Police’s PFI buildings cost taxpayers £12.1m a year

West Yorkshire Police's Leeds District Headquarters on Elland Road, Leeds. Pictured Divisional Commander Chief Supt Paul Money.
11th April 2014. JG100268d Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe.
West Yorkshire Police's Leeds District Headquarters on Elland Road, Leeds. Pictured Divisional Commander Chief Supt Paul Money. 11th April 2014. JG100268d Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe.

A Private Finance Initiative contract signed by Yorkshire’s biggest police force to create two district headquarters and a state-of-the-art training base will cost taxpayers £338m over 25 years.

West Yorkshire Police used a ‘buy now, pay later’ PFI scheme to finance the construction of its HQ with custody facilities at Elland Road in Leeds, another similar base at Havertop Lane at Normanton and a specialist operational training centre at Carr Gate in Wakefield.

Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

According to Government spending data, £12.1m was paid out as part of the Modernise Police Estate project last year, with payments of £338m to be made between 2013 and 2039.

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The capital value of the buildings is £113.9m, but the force said the total cost of the project included services such as pre-planned maintenance, repairs and cleaning.

A spokesman said the ‘majority’ of the cost was accounted for by Government PFI credits, meaning central government bears the cost rather than local taxpayers. The force was unable to say precisely what proportion of payments would come from PFI credits.

Details of the multi-million pound payments being made by local authorities around the region have been revealed by The Yorkshire Post in the last two weeks.

Deals drawn up by local councils will see more than £13bn paid back over three decades for new homes, schools and waste facilities, while five of the region’s hospital trusts have signed contracts totalling £3.8bn.

Critics argue that PFI, which became widespread after Labour took power in 1997, is a more expensive way of funding public schemes than simply borrowing.

But supporters say the contracts bring many benefits, with the private contractor taking on the risks involved with a major project as well as providing maintenance and management of the new building.

On Saturday, an ex-Wakefield MP and former chairman of the Parliamentary health select committee described the cost of the PFI deal done by his local hospital trust as “nothing short of scandalous”.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Consideration of using PFI as a means of delivering the WYP estates strategy was initially approved in 2008 with a key factor in the decision making process being central Government’s financial support throughout the life of the contract.

“This project began in 2009, with the contract being awarded in May 2012 and the last of the three police building complexes becoming fully operational in 2014.

“This allowed the force to release a number of buildings and save revenue costs for buildings from our estates rationalisation programme.”

He added: “In order to obtain Government funding the force had to complete a robust Business Case, which demonstrated value for money.”

Separately, a contract drawn up by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for the Easingwold Training Centre and Fire Station and Huntington Fire Station will cost £26.2m over 25 years.

The two buildings, which have capital costs of £6.4m, were built as part of a PFI deal with Bristol-based LBS (Fire Services) Limited, signed in 2001.

A spokeswoman said at the time of the deal the fire authority was only able to borrow £500,000 a year, and that the new buildings could not have been paid for without PFI.

It receives £649,000 per year in government grants, which over the 25 years will equate to £16.2m.

The spokeswoman said: “The total value of payments made under the contract is probably higher than would have been the case had the assets been procured directly by the authority and as such, the cost to the taxpayer in general is higher.

“However, the contribution from central government significantly reduces the local impact.”