Taxpayers will face “significant financial risk in the coming decades” from levels of emergency government spending in the pandemic, totaling more than £ 370 billion, a powerful committee of parliamentarians says today.
In two separate reports, the all-party public accounts committee (PAC) paints a bleak picture of the lasting financial strain caused by the first 16 months of fighting Covid-19, and says the government You shouldn’t wait until after the official investigation to learn the lessons of what went wrong.
MPs say that by March this year, the lifetime cost of government bailouts had reached £ 372 billion, government-backed loans had skyrocketed and taxpayers had been “on the hook. “for an estimated £ 26 billion in credit and fraudulent losses stemming from the rebound. -Retroactive loan system only for small and medium-sized companies.
While Boris Johnson has promised a public investigation into the handling of Covid-19, it will not begin until next spring and will take years to complete, leaving the prime minister open to accusations that he wants to prevent the truth from coming to light before the next general. choice.
The PAC says, however, that the national interest demands understanding and recognition of the many shortcomings much earlier. MPs say it is “clear that the government cannot wait for the review before learning important lessons.”
They expect ministers to “establish a full-cost plan to recover from the pandemic” in the fall spending review, along with a comprehensive framework for managing risks to public finances resulting from the Covid-19 response.
The committee also highlights concerns about the government’s readiness to combat Covid-19 and other diseases in the future, saying it “remains concerned that despite spending more than £ 10 billion on supplies, the PPE stockpile will not it is fit for purpose. “
By listing a catalog of problems, deputies found that as of this May, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) ordered 32 billion items of PPE. But of these, only 11 billion have been distributed so far, while 12.6 billion are stored in the UK as central stock, and 8.4 billion from orders from other parts of the world have yet to reach the UK. United.
The reserve is costing DHSC around £ 6.7 million a week to store, says the PAC, and the waste is “unacceptably high”. As of May, 10,000 PPE shipping containers remained to be unpacked, which had been ordered in 2020, and 2.1 billion items had been found to be unsuitable for use in medical settings.
Meg Hillier, Chairperson of the PAC, said: “With dazzling sums spent on Covid measures so far, the government must be clear, now, how this will be handled in the future and for what period of time.
“Continued risk to the taxpayer will run for 20 years on things like arts and culture recovery loans, much less on other new risks that departments across government must quickly learn to manage. In addition to monitoring acquisitions and their effectiveness for years to come, the PAC will be monitoring this expense and risk for decades to come. If the coronavirus is with us for a long time, the financial hangover could leave future generations with a huge headache. “
In examining the efficiency of the government response, the PAC highlights serious staffing issues within the NHS, which have been highlighted by the pandemic. The service was already struggling with 40,000 vacant medical and nursing staff positions before the first shutdown in March last year. In September, six months later, more than a third of the remaining nurses were considering leaving.
The report warns that with the health and social care workforce “under constant pressure,” patient waiting times continued to increase and waiting lists for non-urgent treatments grew significantly, mounting enormous challenges for the future.