The Prime Minister hoped that it would be “world-beating“, but it turns out that England’s test and trace system has met none of its key targets despite its £22 billion price tag. Not exactly money well spent! Parliament’s spending watchdog has concluded that there is no evidence the Government’s programme contributed to a reduction in Covid infection levels. The Guardian has the story.
In a report which examined the rush to invest in the scheme, the cross-party public accounts committee has challenged ministers to justify the “staggering investment of taxpayers’ money” and criticised the use of private consultants who are paid up to £6,624 a day.
The programme, which has a budget that exceeds that of the Department for Transport, is run by Dido Harding, who was appointed by Matt Hancock, last year…
The timing of the report’s conclusions is an embarrassment for the Government as it continues to refuse to give a pay increase of more than 1% to health workers.
Ministers had justified the vast expenditure on preventing a second national lockdown, but – questioning the programme’s effectiveness – MPs who compiled the report noted that England is now living under its third.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said the enormous amounts spent on the scheme leaves the impression that the public purse has been used like a cashpoint.
“Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project, test and trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, and the promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another lockdown – has been broken, twice,” she said. “British taxpayers cannot be treated by the Government like an ATM machine. We need to see a clear plan and costs better controlled.”
This is not the first report to highlight the failures of test and trace. In December, the National Audit Office found that only as high as 38% of those tested for Covid received their results within 24 hours, with a low of 14% in October, falling far short of the Government’s target. Perhaps more money will solve the problem…
Worth reading in full.