THE Tory government wasted almost £9 billion of taxpayers’ cash through the Covid pandemic, its own figures have revealed.

That total may not tell the whole story, but includes £8.7bn written off by England’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in its newly published 2020-2021 accounts.

That is a substantial majority of the £12.1bn spent on PPE in that year.

The largest single loss in that figure – £4.7bn – was attributed to the sharp fall in the market value of PPE being held by the DHSC.

The list of money wasted by the UK Government’s health department elsewhere includes:

  • £2.6bn spent on PPE that is “not suitable for use in the NHS”
  • £673m spent on kit “not suitable for use by anyone”. The DHSC labelled this a “fruitless payment”, although it was actually 122 different fruitless contracts
  • £750m on PPE it hasn’t needed and “which is in excess of the amount that will ultimately be needed”
  • £195m spent on items for which the government has “not currently identified a suitable use”. The DHSC has been asked if the items had an identified use when they were purchased
  • £111.5m on fees charged for not moving stock fast enough off the ships it arrived on
  • £1.5m lost to exchange rate fluctuations after overseas deals went south
  • £1.6m on interest payments handed to a supplier after the Government failed to pay its invoices on time
  • £649,000 on lost deposits for two flights from China after it emerged there was nothing to put on the planes
  • £339,000 on lost deposits after scrapping the quarantine hotel idea
  • £663,000 on lab equipment thrown out after regional testing sites shut down
  • £638,000 on “a central stockpile of Protein Feed” which went past its expiry date. The DHSC has been asked why it even had such a stockpile

The Treasury also expects to write off a massive (but slightly disputed) £4.3bn which was lost to fraudsters exploiting coronavirus support schemes.

Excluding the £4.7bn lost to market fluctuations, the Tory government will have wasted around £8.3bn in a single year, counting the Treasury and DHSC alone.

But these numbers, staggeringly high as they are, need to be seen in context to be truly understood.

How could the money have been better spent?

Universal Credit

The wasted £8.3bn could have more than paid for a year-long extension to the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift scrapped by Rishi Sunak in October.

Estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies from 2021 said that the cost of keeping the £1040-a-year uplift in place would have been around £6bn annually, as around six million UK families use the benefit.

Fighting child poverty

The Scottish Child Payment, hailed by poverty campaigners as a “game-changer”, will be rolled out to all lower-income families with children under 16 by the end of 2022. The £20-a-week payment is aimed at tackling poverty.

The Edinburgh government estimates that in 2023-2024 the scheme will cost £360m annually and benefit more than 400,000 children.

The UK Government could afford to raise the payments to £30 a week and still have change from the £673m it wasted - on 122 different contracts - buying PPE that is not suitable for use “by anyone”.

Attainment gap

In November 2021, the Scottish Government announced that £200m would be allocated to addressing the widening poverty-related attainment gap in education in 2022.

This is only £5m more than the Tory government wasted on items for which it has “not currently identified a suitable use”.

Helping the most vulnerable

In 2020, Nicola Sturgeon announced a Winter Plan for Social Protection. This was a £100m fund aimed at helping people pay for food, heating, warm clothing, and shelter through the coldest season amid ongoing Brexit problems, and the economic impact of coronavirus.

The Tory government wasted £111.5m because it failed to unload its orders from shipping containers within the timescale it had agreed.

Improving schools

The Scottish Conservatives have relentlessly mocked a “£300,000 DIY job” aiming to improve ventilation in schools.

Their allies in Westminster wasted more than double that (£638,000) on “a central stockpile of Protein Feed” which went past its expiry date.

Climate change

In December 2021, the Scottish Government pledged to spend £2bn investing in a variety of projects aimed at mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis.

The Tory government is currently sitting on £2.6bn worth of PPE which isn’t fit for use in the NHS, and that it hasn’t decided what to do with yet.

Running Scotland?

Those figures are not even making mention of the £37bn the Tory government spent on its “NHS Test and Trace” programme - without being able to “point to a measurable difference” it had made.

That’s more money than the entire Scottish block grant for 2022/2023, which will be £35bn.