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Taxpayers 'will foot Covid costs for decades,' MPs warn

TAXPAYERS will be facing the costs of Covid-19 for decades, MPs warned today as they exposed a catalogue of misspending in billions of pounds on protective equipment (PPE) against coronavirus.

The bill is rising at more than £6 million a week just to store it, the Commons public accounts committee said, adding that ordinary taxpayers will be footing the bill for the pandemic for decades to come.

The committee said that government measures to deal with the pandemic have so far cost the public an eye-watering £372 billion, with spending on PPE alone standing at £10bn.

Some 2.1 billion items of PPE have been found unfit for use for medics and 8.4 billion have not arrived from suppliers.

The committee said it “remains concerned that despite spending over £10 billion on supplies, the PPE stockpile is not fit for purpose.”

Up to May this year, the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) had ordered 32 billion items of PPE; of these, 11 billion items have been distributed, 12.6 billion are in storage — with storage costs running at £6.7 million a week — and about 10,000 shipping containers full of PPE have not been unpacked.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the cross-party report is more evidence of the Tories’ failures during the pandemic.

She said that their failures had resulted in “tens of thousands of avoidable deaths” with “eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ money wasted on unsafe PPE and contracts handed out to their mates.”

“We cannot wait until next year for the public inquiry to start, and ministers cannot kick it into the long grass and cover up their failures by refusing to hand over information hidden in personal email accounts,” Ms Rayner said.

“The public inquiry must start immediately, and the inquiry must have full access to all ministerial correspondence, contracts and documents, including all government business carried out on personal email accounts.

“With billions of items of unsafe and useless PPE sat in warehouses, ministers need to set out what they are doing to recoup taxpayers’ money that has been wasted on duff PPE.”

A DHSC spokeswoman said: “There are robust processes in place to ensure that government spending always provides value for money for the taxpayer.”

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