THE identity of the investment company set to take over Jarvis plc's shares in Kirklees schools has been revealed.
Secondary Market Infrastructure Fund (SMIF) is a company which invests in infrastructure businesses throughout western Europe and has assets totalling about £140m.
The Examiner understands that negotiations are under way for SMIF to buy Jarvis's shares in Kirklees Schools Services Ltd - the company created as part of a £50m refurbishment scheme for 19 Kirklees schools under the Government's private finance initiative, or PFI.
Jarvis owned a 35% share of KSSL - the rest was owned by Barclays Bank and Kirklees Council.
Jarvis carried out the construction and refurbishment of the schools and its sub-company Jarvis Facilities Management had a long-term contract for their maintenance, cleaning and caretaking.
If SMIF take over Jarvis's shares, the proportion of KSSL owned by each party is not expected to change and Kirklees Council will still be responsible for overseeing the future of the contract.
The council's Policy and Resources Cabinet Committee agreed to Jarvis's shares to be taken over by new investors at a meeting on December 23.
The decision was taken in the light of a report about Jarvis's continued financial difficulties.
The council had already dropped Jarvis's bid for a contract to rebuild four special schools in Kirklees.
A council spokesman said the deal would lead to a total end to Jarvis's involvement in Kirklees schools.
He said: "Staff will be switched to new employers when details have been finalised. Jarvis will not be involved in completing outstanding works."
Kirklees councillors are considering putting in up to £8.5m of the authority's capital spending budget to finish work at schools revamped under the PFI scheme.
A spokesman for Jarvis said that nationally the company is considering selling off its Jarvis Facilities Management section.
He added: "We are talking to parties about the possibility of other contractors completing some of our outstanding construction works.
"For ones that are closer to completion, we are ensuring we have finance in place to complete ourselves.
"Jarvis has a long term restructuring plan. For the future, we don't intend to remain in PFIs."
Public services union Unison - which represents the cleaning, caretaking and catering staff currently employed by Jarvis Facilities Management- is unhappy with the Kirklees situation.
Mike Forster, chief education steward, said SMIF buying out Jarvis would mean financial institutions could control more shares of KSSL than Kirklees Council.
He said: "It means that financial institutions are now running the maintenance of those schools.
"What interest have they got in education? Staff are very insecure and scared.
"Their future at the schools is guaranteed, but who will be employing them is uncertain, as are their wages and conditions of service.
"What is important is that there is some stability and continuity. This can only be done if the council draws a line under the PFI."