The government could have funded 24 million free school meals with the exorbitant amount of money it has spent on management consultants since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.
Ministers have handed at least £56 million to companies like Deloitte and McKinsey for help with key cogs in the UK’s pandemic response, like the country’s flailing test-and-trace system.
That same sum of money could have funded 24,347,826 free school meals for some of the neediest children in England, at an average cost of £2.30 per meal.
Deloitte rakes it in
In a controversial vote last week, 322 Conservative MPs voted down an effort – prompted by the viral campaigning of England star Marcus Rashford – to ensure no vulnerable child goes hungry over half term and Christmas.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has pledged to force another vote on the issue before Christmas – with Tory MPs across the country facing a significant backlash following the vote.
A host of businesses, local councils and charities have since stepped into the breach, unilaterally offering free school meals over the half-term break.
The contracts handed out to consultancies include £6.7 million to Deloitte to help the government buy equipment for intensive care units – including ventilators.
Deloitte also earned £3 million for providing “general management consultancy services” to the Cabinet Office, related to the pandemic, and £2.2 million from the Department of Health for help buying PPE.
Consulting giants McKinsey, a US-based firm, has received a host of government contracts – including one from the Department of Health for “troubleshooting” in the government’s error-plagued data analysis of Covid-19.
‘One rule for them’
Earlier on Wednesday, the Evening Chronicle revealed that the council tax bill waived on properties belonging to Dominic Cummings could have funded more than 23,000 free school meals in County Durham.
The Prime Minister’s chief adviser and his family escaped years of unpaid taxes – up to as much £50,000 – on two homes built in breach of regulations.
Instead of the charges being backdated to when the two properties were built, new charges for the properties – on the outskirts of Durham – will come into effect from the start of this month.
Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth said: “If it was anybody else, they would be getting charged and it would be backdated, or they would be getting taken to court. It just proves there is two sets of rules, one for them and another for everyone else. It is not right.”
Around 16,500 school children are eligible for free school meals in County Durham. The North East’s Conservative MPs – with the exception of Richard Holden, who didn’t vote – all voted against Labour’s motion to extend free school meals to children over school holidays until Easter 2021.
Labour MP Kevan Jones, who represents North Durham, said: “Many of my constituents are angry at the Valuation Agency’s decision not to backdate the council tax bill on properties in which Dominic Cummings has an interest which were built without planning permission in Durham council tax pays for local services.
“The Government’s decision last week not to fund free school means that cost falls on local council tax payers.”