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by Bethany Rielly
THE government has spent almost £2 billion on “crony contracts” with Tory donors and friends during the pandemic, alarming Labour Party research revealed today.
Having put the total at more than £1bn last October, Labour’s new findings suggest that Tory cronies have since received almost another £1bn in Covid-19 procurement contracts.
The splurge came even after the National Audit Office’s warning last November that usual standards of transparency were being eroded and that firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were being given priority for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves will urge the government tomorrow to claw back taxpayers’ money if contracts have not been delivered in full, and has written to the top 10 firms with Tory connections urging them to disclose their pandemic profits.
She warned that the public is paying a high price for the Tories’ “mismanagement and waste.”
“This government has eroded not only our public services to the brink of collapse, but so much of what it means to be an honourable and transparent government,” Ms Reeves said.
She said that while the Tory government denied key public-service workers a pay rise, it paid 900 management consultants at Deloitte £1,000 per day to work on the test and trace service.
“Children weren’t banging pots and pans for management consultants,” she said. “They were clapping our key workers.”
“This current Tory Party is rife with conflicts of interest. It’s all cheques and no balances.”
Among the Tory-linked firms identified by Labour was Clipper Logistics Ltd, which was awarded £1.3 million to deliver PPE. Its chairman, Steven Parkin, has donated £725,000 to the Conservatives since 2016.
Another is Meller Designs — owned by David Meller, who has donated £65,000 to the Tories over the past 10 years — which was awarded six PPE contracts worth over £100m.
Labour said that the total cost of contracts given to Tory friends and donors could have provided free school meals for every one of the 1.4 million pupils who are eligible — for over three years.
The shocking figures follow reports that eight Tory donors who collectively gave £8.2m to the party have won a total of £881m through 35 Covid-19 procurement contracts.
Campaigners said the “absolutely staggering” figures further demonstrate the need to remove the private sector from public services.
Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr John Puntis said: “Cronyism is a disease infecting the heart of this government.
“The vaccination programme stands as testimony to how brilliantly even an under-resourced NHS can deliver when given a complex task free of the complications of private-sector involvement.”
We Own It campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said: “The government has used this pandemic as an excuse to hand billions of pounds to their mates in the private sector, often to companies that have literally no experience delivering the work they’ve been contracted to undertake.
“The public have had enough of this. The overwhelming majority want to see a publicly owned, publicly funded and publicly run NHS.
“That’s what we should be investing in now — not cash to line the pockets of Tory donors and friends.”
The Cabinet Office have been approached for comment.
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