A Labour government will establish a new powerful commissioner to recover billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money lost to waste and Covid fraud during the pandemic, Rachel Reeves will tell the party conference on Monday (October 9).
“The cost to the taxpayer of Covid fraud is estimated at £7.2bn with every one of those cheques signed by Rishi Sunak as chancellor and yet just 2% of fraudulent Covid grants have been recovered,” Reeves will tell attendees at the Liverpool conference.
“We will appoint a Covid corruption commissioner equipped with the powers they need and the mandate to do what it takes to chase those who have ripped off the taxpayer, taking them to court and clawing back every penny of taxpayers money that they can.
“That money belongs in our NHS, it belongs in our schools, it belongs in our police and conference – we want that money back.”
Boris Johnson’s government awarded billions of pounds worth of contracts to thousands of private companies during the pandemic – ranging from researching public opinion about lockdown and Covid restrictions to personal protective equipment (PPE).
PAC said £4 billion worth of PPE did not meet NHS standards. A further £2.6 billion spent on PPE met NHS standards but was not the type used by staff. £673 million was spent on defective PPE and £4.7 billion was written down to reflect the fall in prices since the PPE was purchased.
PAC’s report said that while the government is offering the PPE to other organisations and countries, “significant volumes” will be burnt to generate power.
“The scale of PPE waste and corruption is sickening: over £10bn lost; more than four in every five pounds spent,” commented Jolyon Maugham, the founder of the Good Law Project campaign group.
“If you’re serious about looking after public money – yours and mine – you want those billions back. Recovering them starts with political will. Until now that has been sorely lacking – so this is a very positive development.”
Reeves is set to announce a Labour government will review sentencing for fraud and corruption committed against UK public services.
Meanwhile, Labour’s leadership is due to be tested by a Unite motion calling for renationalising the nation’s critical infrastructure, starting with energy companies.
The Unite union is one of the Labour party’s biggest funders – providing almost £1.5 million every year – and has been pushing for nationalising key sectors of the economy. Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer oppose the policy which will be voted on by conference delegates on Monday evening.