ACTION to tackle the pandemic has so far cost £12,277 for every taxpayer in Britain, a report reveals today.
But the final bill is expected to be even higher — with the public having to fork out more huge sums for the next 20 years.
Fighting Covid has so far cost £372billion and will take decades to pay off[/caption]
Figures show the Government has splashed out £372billion on fighting Covid so far.
That is twice the amount raised in income tax every year and almost every penny of it is borrowed.
With England’s lockdown lifted, 40,000 music fans have packed the Latitude festival in Suffolk this weekend amid hopes of a return to normal.
But worried MPs fear it will take decades to get the nation’s finances in tune again.
The figure — calculated by the Commons Public Accounts Committee — is three times higher than public spending watchdogs estimated last year.
More than a quarter went on measures to support jobs, such as the furlough scheme.
An extra £92billion is also being pumped into the health service to help it cope with the strain of the pandemic.
Billions more went on the successful vaccination programme and the much-criticised test and trace scheme.
With millions of pounds more lost through waste and inefficiency, MPs are demanding action now to ensure every penny is spent wisely in future.
Dame Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: “With eye-watering sums of money spent on Covid measures so far, the Government needs to be clear, now, how this will be managed going forward, and over what period of time.
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“If coronavirus is with us for a long time, the financial hangover could leave future generations with a big headache.”
In two hard-hitting reports, the committee slammed government spending on unusable hospital protection kit and said next year’s public inquiry would be too late to fix some issues.
It warned that taxpayers would be exposed to “significant financial risks for decades to come” on top of the estimated lifetime cost so far.
Dame Meg has said the British public cannot be treated “like an ATM machine” and called for a plan to be included in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn spending review.
The Labour MP added: “The ongoing risk to the taxpayer will run for 20 years on things like arts and culture recovery loans, let alone the other new risks that departments across government must quickly learn to manage.
“We need to see a clear plan and costs better controlled.”
If coronavirus is with us for a long time, the financial hangover could leave future generations with a big headache.
More than £10billion was wasted on personal protective equipment for frontline NHS staff that was “not fit for purpose,” one report said.
The current stockpile is costing the Department of Health £6.7million a week to store and potential waste levels are “unacceptably high”, it states.
About 10,000 shipping containers of PPE were still waiting to be unpacked by May this year and 2.1billion items of the gear were found to be unsuitable for use in medical settings.
This equates to £2billion of taxpayers’ money and five times the estimate of PPE unfit for purpose given to the committee by the department in January.
England’s test and trace failed to make a “measurable difference” to the spread of the virus despite a £23billion outlay, an earlier report by the committee had claimed.
Members called for the scheme to “wean itself off” reliance on consultants paid up to £6,600 a day.
Dame Meg said test and trace was supposed to have avoided the need for further lockdowns, yet the promise had been broken twice.
Tory MP Richard Holden, who sits on the committee, said last night: “Dealing with Covid has cost all countries a fortune.
“Supporting our NHS and British jobs and businesses through the pandemic has put a £372billion hole in the UK’s public finances.
“That’s about twice as much as we raise from all income tax every year. That’s money that’s had to be borrowed and will have to be repaid.”
Mr Holden, who won the former Red Wall seat of North West Durham in 2019, added: “We now need to ensure the economy builds back strongly to generate the revenue we need to manage this extra debt — that’s why productivity growth and levelling up are so important.”
But fellow Tory committee member Craig Mackinlay warned excessive public spending could become the norm.
He said: “Over the past 120 years, whenever there has been a spike in debt, the base spending of the Government never went back to where it started.”
This weekend 40,000 music fans packed out Suffolk’s Latitude festival[/caption]
Rishi Sunak has been urged to come up with a ‘clear plan’ in his autumn spending review[/caption]
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John O’Connell, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Of course the Government had to react quickly, but the sheer scale of squandered public money will shock those whose budgets have been squeezed by the crisis.”
Labour seized on the figures to step up demands for a public inquiry into PM Boris Johnson and the Government’s handling of the pandemic to start now.
A Department of Health spokesman said last night: “There are robust processes in place to ensure that government spending always provides value for money for the taxpayer.”