As claims of a ‘chumocracy’ running through Government handing out jobs and contracts to friends and family members, another company has been left out in the cold. Contracts totalling £1.5bn have gone to companies with connections to the Conservative party. It is clear that there has been a woeful lack of transparency when it comes to how taxpayers’ money is spent.
A report by the National Audit Office suggests confirmed there is a “high-priority lane” for suppliers referred by senior politicians and officials. It concluded that companies with a political referral were ten times more likely win a contract than those without.
Now Florence Roby, a family-run Merseyside business, has had to lay off a fifth of its workers after its offer to supply PPE to the government was ignored and then refused, reports The Liverpool Echo.
The company was left frustrated by the government’s procurement process, that handed out contracts worth millions of pounds to brand new companies but overlooked UK-based businesses with years of manufacturing experience.
Without a contract from the government the company had to lay off five of their 25 workers, as their core business was decimated by the pandemic.
Business owner Jan Roby said: “If we had been given just one contract we could have got more jobs going for local people.
“There’s a lot of local raw talent around, we could have brought them in. But we’re struggling to keep going and it’s heartbreaking because only last year we were picked out by the government as one of four model successful factory firms.
“Yet we weren’t model enough to even quote for a contract for PPE.”
Bill Esterson MP spoke in Parliament about Florence Roby’s treatment compared to another that has political connections.
PPE Medpro was set up on May 12 this year and only seven weeks later received a contract for £122 million to provide gowns to the NHS
Esterson said: “PPE Medpro had one advantage: it was assisted by its relationship with a Conservative member of the House of Lords.”
He then listed a number of other companies with links to the Tories that had received PPE contracts while UK-based manufacturers were overlooked.
He added: “Florence Roby employs local people and a contract would have added jobs in its factory; instead, it had to lay people off, while PPE Medpro shipped from overseas. That is the contrast.”
Campaigners have launched legal proceedings against the Government claiming it handed out top jobs in the coronavirus pandemic to “cronies” without proper competition.
The Good Law Project and race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust said they had filed for judicial review at the High Court claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had acted “unlawfully”.
The case relates to the recruitment of Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding to both the head of NHS Test and Trace and the new National Institute of Health Protection; Kate Bingham as head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce; and Mike Coupe as director of NHS Test and Trace.
The court papers allege that because the positions were not advertised and are unpaid the Government was guilty of indirectly discriminating against others outside the very well-off, predominantly white group from which the they were chosen.
They also said the Government breached equality obligations for public sector appointments.
The campaigners said that they have launched the judicial review because they believe the appointments were unlawful.
In a statement on its website, the Good Law Project added: “Thousands of lives depend on these public bodies.
“Yet this Government has handed them over without competition to cronies who’ve channelled billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to private companies and their associates – while the Test and Trace system fails.
“A number of people – who just happen to share the quality of being friends of the Conservative Party – were just given the nod.
“This is not the Britain we should be, and we don’t believe it is lawful.”