The private finance initiative (PFI) is a way of creating "public–private partnerships" (PPPs) by funding public infrastructure projects with private capital. Developed initially by the Australian and United Kingdom governments, PFI and its variants have now been adopted in many countries as part of the wider neo-liberal programme of privatisation and financialisation driven by an increased need for accountability and efficiency for public spending, national governments, and international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. PFI has been controversial in the UK; despite some high-profile problems with specific projects, the National Audit Office felt that it provided good value for money overall. The private finance initiative (PFI) is a procurement method which uses private sector expertise and resources to deliver public sector infrastructure and/or services according to a specification defined by the public sector. It is a sub-set of a broader procurement approach termed Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the main defining characteristic being the use of project finance (and in particular, using private sector debt and equity) to deliver the public services. As well as developing the infrastructure and providing finance, private sector companies operate the public facilities, in many cases using former public sector staff who have had their employment contracts transferred to the private sector through a process that protects their entrenched rights known as TUPE. Every PFI deal has its own particular characteristics.
The PFI is a ultimately a form of project finance, a form of private sector delivery of infrastructure that has been used since the Middle Ages. However, the pedigree of the current private finance initiative (PFI) was in Australia in the late 1980s. In 1992 PFI was implemented for the first time in the UK by the Conservative government of John Major. It immediately proved controversial, and was attacked by the Labour Party while in opposition. Labour critics such as the future Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt considered that PFI was really a back-door form of privatisation, and the future Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling warned that "apparent savings now could be countered by the formidable commitment on revenue expenditure in years to come". Nonetheless, the Treasury considered the scheme advantageous and pushed Tony Blair's Labour government to adopt it after the 1997 General Election. Two months after the party took office, the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, announced that "when there is a limited amount of public-sector capital available, as there is, it's PFI or bust". PFI continued and, in fact, expanded under Labour, resulting in criticism from many trade unions, elements of the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the Green Party as well as commentators such as George Monbiot and academics such as Prof. Allyson Pollock, Mark Hellowell, Prof. Jean Shaoul and Dr Adrian Bell. Proponents of the PFI include the World Bank, IMF and (in the UK) the CBI  Both Conservative and Labour governments have sought to justify PFI on the practical grounds that the private sector is better at delivering services than the public sector. This position has been supported by the UK National Audit Office with regard to certain projects. However, critics such as Pollock and Monbiot claim that many uses of PFI are ideological rather than practical. In her book NHS plc Allyson Pollock recalls a meeting with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown who could not provide a rationale for PFI other than to "declare repeatedly that the public sector is bad at management, and that only the private sector is efficient and can manage services well."
Henry Conybeare (23 February 1823 – c.1884) was an English civil engineer and Gothic revival architect who designed two notable churches and greatly improved the supply of drinking water to Mumbai. He qualified as an engineer and moved to India while still in his twenties to work on the Bombay Great Eastern Railway project. In 1852, Conybeare produced an influential report to the Bombay Board of Conservancy entitled "Report on the Sanitary State and Sanitary Requirements of Bombay". He became Superintendent of Repairs for Bombay, where his plans for a water-supply scheme were accepted in 1855. The Vihar Lake supplied the first piped water to the city in 1860, and its water-works are still in use today.
Conybeare's work during his later years in Great Britain included:
- 1860: Work on the Chard and Taunton Railway scheme. Powers to build it were granted by an Act of Parliament in 1861, but nothing was built until the Bristol and Exeter Railway took over the powers and opened the line in September 1866.
- 1860s: Engineer to the West Cork Railway and the Cork & Kinsale Railway during the 1860s. He also designed the railway hotel at Kinsale, but it was never finished.
- 1861: Work on the Brecon and Llandovery Railway
- 1861-2: Work for the Llanelli Railway & Dock Company
- 1863: Work on enlarging the Talyllyn tunnel near Talyllyn Junction, for the Brecon and Merthyr Railway. It had originally been opened as part of the Hay Railway in 1916.
- 1864: Deposited plans for a Southampton and Isle of Wight Railway, intended to pass near Beaulieu Abbey to the Solent. Nothing came of this.
- 1864: With others, engaged by the Sheffield authorities to investigate the Great Sheffield Flood, caused by the breaching of the newly built Dale Dike Reservoir.
- 1866: With Alexander Sutherland, built the Cefn Coed Viaduct, a Grade II* listed building and the third largest viaduct in Wales. It carried the Brecon and Merthyr Railway (now part of the Taff Trail), across the River Taff at Pontycapel, near Cefn-coed-y-cymmer. Sutherland was a friend of Robert Thompson Crawshay of the nearby Cyfarthfa Ironworks, and the viaduct was built on a curve to satisfy conditions laid down by the Crawshay Estate.