Chapter 5: United Kingdom and Ireland
In this chapter, the focus will be on UK and Irish PPP/PFI policies, including some differentiations in the British regions. The HM Treasury’s ‘PFI signed projects list’ and the Irish Taoiseach’s ‘PPP project tracker list’ provide useful cumulative information about the respective activities. The development of PPP/PFI in the UK since its introduction in 1992 is already well covered by the research literature. For Ireland, factors such as the politics of corporatism, sound public finances until the outbreak of the global financial crisis and the longstanding role of a predominant party (Fianna Fáil) in Irish politics can help to explain the lower PPP commitment compared to the UK. The UK is a unitary state under ‘asymmetric’ devolution, with the Scottish Parliament claiming most powers, followed by the Welsh Assembly with only secondary legislation and the Northern Ireland government with long periods of suspended self-rule within the investigation period. As we will see later, among the devolved regions Scotland most intensely relied on PPP/PFI. Despite devolution, administrative as well as financial centralization is high, but not as high as, for instance, in Portugal and Greece. Local governments were strengthened under the Blair cabinets commencing in 1997. However, there are still tight ties between central and local government, enabling ‘Whitehall’ to set incentives or to coerce local governments to act in certain directions which are particularly welcome to central government.
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