The true cost of building 11 new fire stations in Staffordshire was today labelled a ‘gross waste of taxpayers’ money’.
It comes as a Freedom of Information Act request revealed today that it will cost taxpayers £127 million for the new stations.
Construction costs will come to £29.6m but paying the money back with interest will see the eventual bill spiral to more than four times that under a 25-year Private Finance Initiative – PFI.
South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said: “These PFI schemes are often a gross waste of taxpayers’ money and something I would like to see an awful lot less of.
“I am concerned about the effect this cost will have on the Fire and Rescue Service and I think they would be better off borrowing a bit of money and using it to make improvements to existing buildings as these projects do not represent value for money for the public purse.
“These new fire stations are grotesquely ugly and they are incredibly expensive carbuncles. I just struggle to understand how any public authority thinks such schemes offer good value and I wonder whether these are even worth going ahead with now.”
Cannock Chase Council leader George Adamson said lessons should have been learned from hugely expensive PFI projects to rebuild hospitals, which have left many NHS trusts saddled with massive debts.
“PFI has caused problems in the NHS. It leaves huge amounts of debts to pay,” he said. “It’s a huge cost to the taxpayer. Although I welcome new fire stations, it’s very expensive.”
Stations being rebuilt include Codsall, Kinver, Stone, Rugeley, Penkridge, Chase Terrace and Lichfield, along with three others in the north of the county while a new building will go up at Loggerheads.
It is the second such scheme in the county in recent years, with stations at Cannock and Stafford’s Rising Brook already completed.
Under PFI schemes, private companies are used to fund new public buildings, such as schools or hospitals.
Public bodies then repay them with interest over an agreed period. Usually, PFI involves paying the private companies to maintain the sites over the life of the deal.
David Greensmith, director of finance, assets and resources for Staffordshire Fire Service, said: “The net construction cost for the 11 sites is £29.6m.
“The PFI has been signed for a 25-year period commencing fully from March 2016. The final concession date is February 2041.
“The full unitary charge will commence when all stations have been completed with a total unitary charge payable of £127m payable during this period.
“This includes all capital costs, fees, lifecycle and facilities management costs during the 25-year period.”
The 11 new fire stations will be equipped with hi-tech facilities such as new computer systems and have space for more community activities including student firefighter courses. All of the new stations incorporate dedicated rooms and amenities for the benefit of community groups.
And stations crewed round the clock will have fitness equipment that can be used by supervised groups.
The designs for the Codsall station in Duck Lane sparked anger among residents who raised concerns about its appearance, while Mr Williamson described it as ‘grotesque’ and a ‘wart on the landscape’.
Blue3, a consortium led by national construction group Kier, was chosen to design, finance, build and maintain the stations over 25 years.
The new stations will replace existing sites that date as far back as 1969.
Work at Chase Terrace fire station in Rugeley Road has already begun and is scheduled for completion in late summer 2014.
Work at Rugeley station will follow later this year, while work on Penkridge will begin in 2014.
Images of how the new stations will look show that they have cube-shaped windows and a red and black colour scheme.
Staffordshire Police, the NHS, Citizens Advice Bureau and housing associations are some of the public services that will use the community spaces in the stations.