Tory PPE waste cost every household £310, shocking analysis reveals

The amount of public money wasted on unused and faulty PPE during the pandemic cost every household in the UK more than £310, new analysis has revealed.

By Redrow 

In February, the government finally admitted that it had splurged a staggering £8.7 billion on overpriced protective equipment.

And Labour this week revealed that ministers are set to spend another £35 million paying private firms to burn or recycle surplus masks, aprons and gloves – with the government claiming it is cheaper to recycle PPE than store it.

The eye-watering total comes to £310 for every household in the UK, just as a cost-of-living crisis batters Brits.

‘Culture of cronyism’

Labour’s Angela Rayner accused the Tories of wasting “billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on useless PPE that they’re now either burning or giving away for virtually nothing.”

She told the Mirror: “The Government might not need to raise taxes on working people in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis if they didn’t waste this much PPE.

“Ministers have a duty to get value and results when spending the public’s money, but Boris Johnson has created a culture of cronyism and waste throughout his government.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our priority throughout the pandemic has been saving lives, and we have delivered over 19.1 billion items of PPE to frontline staff to keep them safe.”

They added: “Having too much PPE was preferable to having too little in the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, given this was essential to keep our NHS open and protect as many people as possible.

“Now we are confident we have sufficient PPE to cover any future Covid demands, we are taking decisive action to save up to £93 million of taxpayers’ money per year by reducing storage costs for excess stock.”

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 4 April

‘Perfect storm’ of Covid and staff shortages leaves care homes unable to take hospital discharges

A “perfect storm” of Covid and staff shortages has left social care unable to take a surge of patients, it has been warned.

Rebecca Thomas

Care home leaders said residential homes may not be able to handle the usual influx of patients from hospitals during the Easter bank holiday weekend as “chronic” shortages, which hit a high in March, force providers to close beds.

Recent data published by Skills for Care showed vacancy rates across care services hit 10 per cent in March 2022, compared to 5.9 per cent in 2021.

The figures, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, represent the highest level recorded since the beginning of last year.

It comes as figures published on Thursday revealed A&E waits and ambulance delays in March were the worst they’ve ever been.

More than 390,000 people with potentially life-threatening conditions, including suspected strokes, waited more than an hour for an ambulance.

One in 10 patients waited more than two hours for an ambulance which should come within 18 minutes.

According to a letter, reported by The Health Service Journal, hospital trusts were warned of escalating pressures in the northwest and were told 1,700 care home beds locally had been closed due to staffing and Covid pressures.

In an interview with The Independent, Martin Green, chief executive for Care England, said his members were reporting “chronic staff shortages” made worse by more workers testing positive for Omicron in rent weeks.

He said care homes have not been able to deal with the influx of patients from hospitals which usually occurs ahead of a bank holiday.

Mr Green explained: “Hospitals make a decision to empty themselves, whether it be the bank holidays, Christmas, and that at a time when it’s also difficult for us to maintain staffing levels.

“Occupancy levels are much, much lower than they would be normally – they’re hovering around about 88 to 90 per cent but would normally be in the high 90s, which has had an impact on the viability of homes. Some not only reduced the number of beds that they’re opening, because of issues around Omicron because they cannot get the staff.”

He said one care home in Buckinghamshire recently had to reduce its capacity by 10 beds due to staffing problems.

In addition to staff absences, the Care England chief said current legislation is forcing homes to implement certain infection control measures which are leading to less beds and is costing homes up to £1m.

Councillor Louise Gittins said in an interview with The Independent that social care was already suffering from “massive” staffing shortages as recruitment was becoming more difficult, with one provider losing 100 staff since December.

She said the bank holiday will worsen these pressures, adding: “What will happen with the bank holiday, it will put pressures on things such as pharmacies not necessarily being open and where people aren’t about because of the bank holiday.

“It feels like the perfect storm at the moment. We’ve got high Covid rates, which is putting pressures on staff, in terms of absences.”

Responding to the NHS performance figures on Thursday, Chris Hopson, chief executive for NHS Providers, said hospitals were dealing with the “most sustained difficult and pressured period of time they can remember”.

He said: “We need to be honest about the four long-term fault lines which have built up over the last decade, exacerbated by Covid. Between 2010 and 2020, the NHS went through the longest and deepest financial squeeze in its history.

“It was therefore unable to grow capacity to match growing demand, leaving a significant capacity shortfall.

“Huge workforce shortages have built up, with 110,000 vacancies and only 27 per cent of staff saying their organisation has sufficient staff to do their job properly. And the government has consistently failed to solve problems in social care.

“Until these fault lines are properly addressed, the NHS is going to remain under real pressure.”

Michael Gove to axe S106 agreements?

Levelling Up Secretary set to axe rules forcing developers to build “affordable” homes, in favour of a new levy for councils.

Where would this leave the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)? – Owl

By Ben Gartside 

Michael Gove is poised to hit property developers with a £7bn levy that could pave the way for a massive expansion of new council housing.

The Levelling Up Secretary is preparing to axe rules which force companies to build a set number of “affordable” homes on their developments themselves, and will order them to pay into an infrastructure fund instead that can be used by councils for their own projects.

Mr Gove has held talks with industry about the proposals, and executives are preparing for them to be included in the Queen’s Speech next month if approved by Cabinet.

A formal consultation could be launched within weeks.

Developers expect the new levy to raise around £7bn if it goes ahead, assuming it costs the same as they spend under existing affordable housing rules.

It is not clear if councils will be able to use the money however they see fit, or if they will be required to earmark it for projects such as homes, roads, schools and GP surgeries.

However, large amounts of money are likely to be funnelled into local authority schemes to tackle the housing crisis. This could include an increase in the building of homes owned by councils, industry insiders said, or sold to residents through council-run developers known as Housing Delivery Vehicles.

The proposals have been met with consternation from developers. One executive said that while the move is designed to simplify planning, it may have the opposite effect. 

They said: “While the current system can be arduous and there have been complaints around efficiency, it ensures infrastructure is built and doesn’t create issues about cash flow, and means infrastructure can be built in advance of a development. 

“It also means communities neighbouring the development won’t necessarily feel a direct benefit – there is no obligation for councils to create infrastructure, or for it to be built in the same area.”

The proposals involve axing Section 106 of the 1990 Planning Act, which allows councils to order developers to build infrastructure in return for permission to start work on new estates.

This typically includes a requirement for a certain number of affordable homes, which can be run by social housing groups, sold through a shared ownership scheme or simply offered for sale or rent at a below-market rate.

The National Planning Policy Framework states that 10pc of homes should be affordable on major developments, and 52,100 such properties were built in 2020-21.

Section 106 has long been criticised as an unwieldy and bureaucratic imposition on developers that holds up projects.

Mr Gove is now proposing to scrap it and replace the system with a “consolidated infrastructure levy”, which would charge developers a fee set as a proportion of the value of their housing project. This money would then be spent by councils themselves.

Council housing boomed in the postwar years before a massive sell-off driven by Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy policy.

Only 3,370 local authority properties were built in the UK in 2019-20, down from almost 195,00 in 1969-70.

However, there are signs of a renaissance with new projects started by London councils reaching a four-decade high last year.

One property investor said that Mr Gove’s plan risks leading to a rise in “s——y quality” council housing. They added that the overall number of properties built is likely to be lower than under current rules because developers can move more quickly than the Government.

The idea for scrapping section 106 was initially touted by Mr Gove’s predecessor Robert Jenrick in 2020 as part of a white paper that was subsequently dropped. 

Conservative MPs have become increasingly frustrated with the delays around Section 106 agreements, and have encouraged Mr Gove to rework the policy. 

In a letter last year, leading property industry figures including the heads of the British Property Federation and the Home Builders’ Federation warned against introducing an infrastructure levy.

Jules Pipe, London’s deputy mayor for planning, also signed the letter in a move that suggests the proposals risk sparking a backlash from some local authorities which would rather force developers to bankroll specific projects themselves.

The letter, written to Mr Gove at the time of his appointment to Housing Secretary, asked him to improve the existing system rather than scrap it.

It said: “In our view the most effective approach to enabling the delivery of affordable housing, infrastructure and sustainable development, is to improve existing approaches to securing contributions to meet policy requirements set by development plans.”

The Department for Levelling Up declined to comment.