Michael Gove has defended the £7,000-per-day fees being paid to private sector consultants to help the government run its flailing coronavirus testing system.
Sky News revealed last week that Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was paid about £10 million for around 40 consultants to provide four months’ work between the end of April and late August.
The broadcaster said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) received a 10 to 15% discount from BCG, whose day rates for public sector work range from £2,400 to £7,360 for the most senior consultants.
Asked by Andrew Marr on the BBC this morning whether the extortionate spending was a good use of public money, Gove said: “Yes.”
Watch the clip below.
The Cabinet Office minister continued: “Two things – firstly, it’s absolutely vital that we have all the expertise required from the private and the public sector in order to improve testing.
“As I pointed out earlier, we have a higher level of testing in this country than in any other European country, we’ve improving contact tracing all the time. Local health protection teams are doing particularly well in that regard.
“Separately, I’ve been clear as my colleague Lord Agnew in the Cabinet Office has, that we need to reduce our spend on consultants overall, but in the meantime, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that we protect the NHS.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described the figures being paid out as “truly shocking”.
“Testing and contact tracing is failing to keep the virus under control, which makes it even more disgraceful that such huge sums of money are being spent on something that isn’t fit for purpose,” he said.
More Labour figures quickly piled into Gove for his comments.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “Michael Gove says paying consultants £7k a day is a ‘good use of money’. Whereas apparently helping low paid workers in Greater Manchester, stopping viable businesses from closing and ensuring kids don’t starve over school holidays, isn’t. This Government is a disgrace.”
Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the party, said: This absolutely sums up this awful government. If we can afford to pay consultants £7,000 per day, we can as a country afford to fund school meals for hungry children!”