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UK Government overspent by £8bn on PPE in England, comparison with Wales reveals

02 Feb 2022 3 minute read
Picture by UK Department for International Development (CC BY 2.0).

The UK Government overspent by £8 billion on PPE in England, a comparison with Wales has revealed.

Wales only spent £300m on PPE but received £974m from the UK Government as its population share of England’s spending, suggesting that the UK Government spent more than double what was needed in England.

The figures were highlighted by Guto Ifan, a research associate at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

It comes after auditors rebuked the UK Government Health Department after about £10 billion of spending on PPE was written off. The entire budget of some government departments had been spent on PPE that was not defective, not suitable, or not used in time.

Guto Ifan said that the comparison with Wales “allows another way of assessing the UK Government’s performance”.

“We can compare the UK government’s PPE procurement with that of another government in the UK which faced very similar circumstances at the same time – the Welsh Government,” he said. “The comparison is not flattering for the UK government.

The latest estimate of PPE bought by the Welsh Government in 2020-21 is over £300m. Meanwhile, Wales received £874m (through the population-based Barnett formula) as a result of PPE spending in England.

“This difference represented a huge bonus for the Welsh Government budget, and it enabled higher support for businesses and local authorities during the pandemic.

“For the UK govt, had they spent at the same rate as the Welsh government on PPE, it would have saved at least *£8 billion* in 2020-21 – incidentally, similar to the losses reported in the Dept. for H&SC annual report.”

‘Not suitable’

Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons Jessica Morden drew attention to the disparity in spending in the House of Commons yesterday.

“The Conservative party defends all this by pointing to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, but other Governments did not make the same mistakes,” she said.

“In Wales, the Auditor General saw no evidence of priority being given to potential suppliers depending on who referred them, and the Welsh Labour Government introduced legislation, the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill, to ensure that procurement contracts are fully open and responsible throughout supply chains—a Labour Administration doing it the responsible way.”

Commenting on the findings, Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office, said that Covid buying by the UK Government had significantly increased the risk of fraud and that officials have not provided “adequate assurance that the level of fraud losses are not material”.

The accounts showed that £8.7 billion of the £12.1 billion spent on PPE in England in the early phases of the pandemic had been written off so far.

This included £670 million of “defective” equipment, £2.6 billion on supplies “not suitable” for the NHS, and £750 million on PPE that has passed its expiry date.

£4.7 billion was also written off the value of remaining stocks because the market price is now lower than what the UK Government paid.

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2 years ago

Easily done when you engage in a mix of buying inferior quality material from uncertified sources at inflated prices and passing contracts to old pals who are ill equipped to meet volume and quality standards but demand top prices with some of it up front. A team of professional buyers would have done the job totally differently but ministers and senior civil servants, all thick as mince,had to be seen “in action”. Cost them nothing personally but our taxes will pay for this and other blunders for years. It’s all part of removing wealth from the public purse and stashing… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 years ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Hold your horses. This is 100% the responsibility of the Secretary of State who owns 100% of the shares in NHS Supply Chain Co-ordination Ltd which is the management function of NHS procurement in England.

It is theft as you suggest but civil servants in Wales, Scotland and Ireland managed it well while the English under direct political control were criminally incompetent. Don’t blame the tools when those wielding them are the ones causing the damage.

2 years ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

No you hold yours mate. I said ….”ministers and senior civil servants, all thick as mince,had to be seen “in action”. That would include Hancock, his ministerial underlings and a layer of civil servants. How do you disagree with that ? Or are you splitting some fine hairs here?

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
2 years ago

The Westminster system is broken and corrupted. I can’t see it changing when those at the top of the UK goverment are incompetent and only out for themselves. We now even have Lords wondering whether Wales would be better off governing itself – and that was after first considering federalism. It shows the support for independence is growing. Better management of Covid (though not perfect), an extra £100 towards those struggling with the energy crisis and free prescriptions (prescription costs are rising in England from April) are some of the examples of where limited autonomy has improved the lives of… Read more »

2 years ago

Even the Spectator, normally a backer of most things Tory discloses that

  • The government has written off £8.7bn spent on PPE during the pandemic. Some 3% of PPE items were unusable, while £4.7bn was wasted as the government spent more on items than they were worth.

That takes an incredible level of incompetence to chuck that kind of money down the drain especially from a regime that claimed austerity was about getting a grip on spending ! Only the MOD might match that level of wasteful spending.

Last edited 2 years ago by hdavies15

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