MP COLUMN: Part of Government's response has been too slow
The vaccine programme seems to be doing very well to our collective relief and some pride in the scientists who have worked wonders in a few months of concerted work.
But many other parts of the government’s response over the last year have been far too slow – a sort of last minute.com approach – and far less effective. And some of the procurement practices seem very dodgy indeed.
Some government responses are best left to the mega-inquiry that must follow Covid but others need exposing now so they can be remedied before any more taxpayers’ money is wasted, or worse.
Sadly, there is more than a whiff of cronyism in so many expensive and wasteful contracts being given to Tory friends and donors and also highlights the hollowing out of public services over a decade of aggressive austerity.
Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to give key public sector workers, who we rightly salute, a pay rise and chose to pay 900 private management consultants £1,000 a day to work on test and trace, a system that still isn’t up to scratch.
The government’s “chumocracy” includes senior appointments and contracts made with no due process.
The government should scrap emergency procurement measures and return to proper competitive tendering.
The state can be more nimble and not rely on low standards and “VIP” lanes for companies awarded contracts that are then hidden from public gaze.
Investigative journalists have ferreted out some details of how our taxpayers’ money is being spent. But the Government should publish all outstanding contracts by the end of February.
Waste in an emergency is not entirely avoidable, it is true, but the government should claw back as much of the public money as possible that has been splashed on companies that are all too often connected to Conservative friends and donors.
Longer term, Labour will do its utmost to put public services at the heart of our contracting and procurement process. We want a massive wave of insourcing to expand the capacity of the state to cope with emergencies and to allow taxpayers maximum scrutiny and transparency to root out any corruption and strengthen our communities.
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP