Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey worked on a team responsible for drawing up contracts that handed ownership of £190 million in NHS property to investment firms based in Luxembourg and cost taxpayers millions after a hospital building project fell through.
Long-Bailey has previously refused to deny that she worked on private finance initiative (PFI) contracts within the NHS when she was a corporate lawyer, telling the Sunday Times that she became “aware of rip-off PFI contracts while working as a lawyer, which she has consistently spoken out against.”
BuzzFeed News can now reveal details of the contracts that the team at Long-Bailey's former law firm Hill Dickinson worked on.
These involved drawing up contracts for a programme called NHS LIFT, which handed private firms ownership of new NHS buildings. Her former boss, Hill Dickinson partner Lawford Martin, boasted that he “leads the firm’s Healthcare Property Team and has completed several successful NHS LIFT programmes in Merseyside and Cheshire.”
Those programmes gave ownership of new NHS buildings with a capital value of £190 million to private firms which, according to Companies House records, are ultimately owned in Luxembourg.
The deal generated over £1.4 million in dividends for shareholders last year, and the contracts have been blamed for “back-door” privatisation of NHS services.
The law firm also advised on a deal for the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, which was due to be completed by 2017, but will now lie empty until at least 2022 as a result of the collapse of construction company Carillion.
The empty hospital is reportedly costing taxpayers millions as a result of agreements made by the NHS when it drew up a private finance initiative plan to build it.
A report in the Liverpool Echo last year revealed that a total of £3 million had been spent over six months on the everyday running of the empty hospital and that between July 2018 and January 2019, the hospital had cost the equivalent of the yearly salary of 163 fully qualified nurses, with more than £100,000 spent each month on electricity alone.
Long-Bailey worked on NHS PFI contracts as a solicitor in the Manchester office of Hill Dickinson between 2007 and 2014, during which time the firm was advising the NHS trust behind the Royal Liverpool Hospital contract.
Despite her background with the deals, Long-Bailey has repeatedly spoken out against “rip-off” private finance contracts in the NHS, and was highly critical of the government when Carillion collapsed, saying the Conservatives had been “deliberately silent” on its problems as a result of their “privatisation dogma.”
In further embarrassment for the leadership candidate, one of her backers has called for an investigation into the Liverpool hospital deal. Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden told the Liverpool Echo: “The hospital should never have been PFI and a large portion of the blame for this situation lies with Carillion. We should be having an investigation into Carillion and how they were able to get away with it, and why ministers weren’t taking action when they should have been.”
A spokesperson for Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “Rebecca has always wanted to defend the NHS. She became aware of rip-off PFI contracts while working as a lawyer, which she has consistently spoken out against.”