- Boris Johnson’s UK government must stop outsourcing contracts to friends of the Conservative party, writes the Labour Party’s shadow minister Helen Hayes.
- Firms with “decades of experience” have written to the Labour Party asking why they have been overlooked for PPE contracts, Hayes said.
- Johnson’s government has been accused of a lack of transparency and cronyism over contracts awarded to supply PPE, tests, and other services during the pandemic.
- Writing for Business Insider, Hayes said Britain was witnessing the “utter waste, inefficiency, and irresponsibility of a government prioritizing its friends and donors over the needs of the country.”
The government’s catalog of cronyism has reached new heights this week, as it emerged that, after a WhatsApp exchange with Matt Hancock, a businessman was awarded a contract to supply millions of vials for Covid-19 tests despite having had no previous experience of producing medical supplies.
This follows a string of troubling examples including a jewelry designer middle man paid £21 million of public money, a VIP channel for Tory friends to gain special access to contracts, and two damning reports from the National Audit Office which not only confirm an unacceptable lack of transparency from the government, but that its incompetent planning left the UK paying hugely over the odds for PPE.
These stories aren’t just bad for taxpayers. This approach to contracting, dubbed the “chumocracy,” is hurting British businesses too.
Because the truth is that it is only helping a handful of companies, many with strong links to the Tory Party, to the tune of £1.5 billion at the last count.
Many businesses have contacted Labour in recent weeks with their concerns, wanting to know the answers to questions such as why the government wasted taxpayer money on 50 million facemasks with a company linked to the Tory party, when firms with decades of experience, which support high-quality jobs, have been overlooked.
This only touches on the frustration felt at the utter waste, inefficiency, and irresponsibility of a government prioritizing its friends and donors over the needs of the country. More and more of these concerns are being covered in the media.
British businesses, much like our local communities, feel left behind.
Make no bones about it — Labour believes this government should seriously rethink its approach on outsourcing. On our crucial pandemic response, and our public services more widely, our local councils and communities should be properly resourced to lead the way.
But when the government has an urgent need to buy goods and services at short notice, as is the case with PPE during a pandemic, it should be qualified, experienced British businesses — which pay their taxes and support jobs in the UK — that get the work.
We want to see our industries thrive again, for our businesses to both be properly supported by the Chancellor at a time of great strain, and to be given proper routes into the pandemic response that don’t damage our local public services but give jobs and our economy a chance to grow.
This government’s approach to outsourcing doesn’t make sense to anyone apart from its inner circle.
Ministers must listen to taxpayers, to community leaders and businesses alike – and change their approach now before our country pays an even greater toll in lives and livelihoods devastated by this pandemic.