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  • kg59 (Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash)
    Article: Nov 24, 2021

    Earlier this week we covered the government proposals for social care which had seen late changes made to the scheme such that for poorer people with homes the promise that no-one would have to sell their homes to pay for care was very much in doubt ( see http://southsuffolklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2021/1419754/big-decision-on-social-care )

  • Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash ()
    Article: Nov 22, 2021

    A couple of months ago to much fanfare the government announced its plans to limit personal spending on social care and put more funds into the NHS. This would all be paid for by an increase in national insurance for those in work of 1.25%. No one would have to sell their home to pay for social care was the promise.

  • Cllr. Bryn Hurren
    Article: Nov 19, 2021
    By Cllr Bryn Hurren.

    In this months report Bryn celebrates new social housing dedicated to local residents in Groton contrasting this with the desire to concrete over our countyside with ever more executive housing. He also complains about government complicity in the discharge of untreated sewage into our waterways. You can read his full report here

  • hl0z (Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash)
    Article: Nov 17, 2021

    In recent years the right in British politics have banged on about two issues. Brexit a, gaining control of our borders, and stopping illegal immigration. No Conservative conference would be complete without the Home Secretary promising to reduce illegal immigration and increase repatriation. Priti Patel made just those promises again this year

  • p64e (Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash)
    Article: Nov 17, 2021

    Just the presence of a VIP lane for contractors should be enough to raise the alarm about a dysfunctional tendering process open to abuse, but when one of the criteria for entry appears to be the friendship of a government minister, then it is clear that something is very wrong.

    The latest in the long line of revelations regarding this VIP lane is reported in yesterday's Guardian. They say that a Conservative party donor who supported Michael Gove's Tory leadership bid won £164m in Covid contracts after the minister referred his firm to a "VIP lane" that awarded almost £5bn to companies with political connections.

    They add that this disclosure draws Gove into a furore over alleged cronyism that has led critics to accuse the government of running a "chumocracy" where MPs' friends, contacts or acquaintances have won huge contracts without proper process or transparency:

    Meller Designs, based in Bedford, was awarded six personal protective equipment (PPE) supply contracts worth £164m from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Until January this year it was co-owned by David Meller, who has donated nearly £60,000 to the Tory party since 2009. This included £3,250 to support Gove's party leadership bid in 2016, a campaign on which Meller worked as chair of finance.

    When the contracts were awarded, Gove was a minister at the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for government procurement, and in charge of the office of the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, which referred Meller Designs for PPE supply.

    The company was among 47 awarded contracts for PPE totalling £4.7bn after referrals from politicians and officials, according to a Guardian analysis. Several were linked to MPs, all of them Conservative. Due to the health emergency, many contracts were awarded without competitive tender.

    The list of 47 companies awarded contracts via the VIP lane was published by Politico on Tuesday before its official planned release by the DHSC after a freedom of information request by the Good Law Project, which is challenging the propriety of some contracts.

    The VIP or "high-priority" route was a fast-track process set up by DHSC procurement teams for offers to supply PPE from companies referred by ministers, MPs, NHS officials or other people with political connections. A report by the National Audit Office last year found that firms referred to the VIP lane had a 10 times greater success rate for securing contracts than companies whose bids were processed via normal channels.

    Labour has repeatedly accused the government of favouring people with Tory party connections in the awards of multimillion-pound contracts during the pandemic.

    The list of companies includes 18 whose contracts were processed through the fast track after being referred by a Conservative MP, minister or peer. When questions were first asked about the process last year, the government responded that referrals were a way of filtering credible offers that came to MPs and ministers. However, only companies referred by Conservative politicians are on the list of those awarded contracts.

    The then health secretary, Matt Hancock, referred four firms subsequently awarded contracts; Andrew Feldman, a health department adviser at the time, referred three of the companies; Theodore Agnew, a Cabinet Office minister, referred three; and the Tory backbenchers Julian Lewis, Andrew Percy, Steve Brine and Esther McVey referred one each.

    Another Tory peer, the lingerie businesswoman Michelle Mone, is stated to have referred one company, PPE Medpro, which was awarded two contracts worth £200m via the VIP lane. Corporate services including accounting and directorships were provided to the company by Knox House Trust (KHT), an Isle of Man firm run by Mone's husband, Douglas Barrowman.

    The sooner there is a public inquiry into this mess the better.