£2.3bn to £2.5bn compensation estimated for SPV shareholders: new paper by University of Greenwich


A new working paper by the University of Greenwich’s Public Sector International Research Unit (PSIRU) estimates that the cost of compensating the shareholders of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) on HM Treasury database at book value could be between £2.3bn and £2.5bn.

A new working paper by the University of Greenwich's Public Sector International Research Unit (PSIRU) estimates that the cost of compensating the shareholders of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) on HM Treasury database at book value could be between £2.3bn and £2.5bn.

Dr Helen Mercer (pictured), University of Greenwich, and Dexter Whitfield, director European Services Strategy Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Industrial Transformation Institute, Flinders University, the authors of the paper are laying down a new challenge to the model of public private partnerships by outlining the costs, savings and process of nationalising Special Purpose Vehicles that are signed by companies for PFI contracts with public authorities.

Dr Helen Mercer, associate lecturer at Greenwich University says: "We are proposing that service contracts are renegotiated so that public authorities can contract directly with the providers and not via the SPV. We estimate that this will secure significant annual savings by eliminating £1.4bn of operating profits accrued by the SPVs; through nationalisation it would pay for itself within two years."

Dr Mercer continues: "We would welcome feedback on our proposals from any interested parties. Our estimations are that the public purse would save at least £1.4bn per annum with these proposals."The paper's authors also propose:

  • Establishing a new body in which ownership of the SPVs will be vested, and which should honour all outstanding liabilities while securing substantial refinancing of debts.
  • That if service contracts are ended early public authorities must bring provision in-house, ending outsourcing and also providing further savings from more rational and integrated provision.

PSIRU's approach reflects continued research since (2000) on how PFIs operate and considers solutions to current issues faced by public sector organisations.

The PPI working paper can be reviewed online:


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The report authors can be contacted at:

Helen Mercer

Dexter Whitfield

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Mobile +353(0)87 7055509

Notes to editors:

University of Greenwich has been providing higher education for over 125 years. It has over 20,000 UK and international students studying at three campuses in the UK, and an additional 17,000 students studying overseas.

University of Greenwich is a public, research university with four faculties: Architecture, Computing & Humanities; Business School; Education & Health; and Engineering & Science. It's part of the University Alliance group and is silver rated in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

The university operates across three campuses: Greenwich and Avery Hill in London and Medway in Kent. Its renowned research has been globally received and endorsed by nine Times Higher Education Awards and four Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher & Further Education.

Notable alumni include Nobel Laureate Sir Charles Kao, Blur musician David Rowntree and campaigner Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon.

Dr Helen Mercer was senior lecturer in Business Economics at Greenwich University from 2007 to 2016, and is now associate lecturer following retirement. She began research into PFIs in 2013 following her close involvement with the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital, and has since worked with various campaign groups on the issue of PFI. Dr Mercer trained as an economic historian and has published on the history of British competition policy.

Professor Dexter Whitfield has carried out extensive research and policy analysis of public private partnerships, regional/city economies and public sector provision, jobs and employment strategies, impact assessment and evaluation. He has undertaken commissioned work for a wide range of UK public sector organisations, published several books and journal articles on marketisation, privatisation and the welfare state and advised public bodies and trade unions in Europe, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.