Category Archives: Spending

After 10 years, the Tories are finally launching their ‘Royal Yacht’ vanity project. They’ll make US pay

Artists impression: this is what someone thought a new Royal Yacht might look like last year, when the cost was going to be £100 million. This year the cost has magically doubled for no reason at all. What do you think we’ll get for that – an extra flagpole?

I’ve been busy over the bank holiday weekend, working on material for the new version of my defence against Rachel Riley’s libel claim. So I thought it was a joke when I saw this:

But it’s not a joke:

A new national flagship is to be commissioned by the government in a bid to boost British trade and industry globally, the prime minister has said.

The vessel will be the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was retired in 1997.

The government plans to build the ship in the UK, at a reported cost of £200m.

Tories have been trying to build themselves a new luxury yacht – at our expense – since at least 2012, when Michael Gove suggested spending £60 million on it to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee:

This boat would cost £60 million, apparently – a million for every year she’s been on the throne. It would be a pointless present because, at Her Majesty’s age, she’s hardly going to be able to steer it.

By 2016, the projected cost had nearly doubled:

Now we learn that Conservative MPs want to give the Queen another yacht – at a cost of £100 million that could be better-used elsewhere, perhaps on benefit payments for a further £16,666 sick people for a year.

When [Gove] suggested it, back in January 2012, the cost was said to be £60 million. Why has it nearly doubled in the years since?

At least we have an answer to my question of the time – whether Tories try to spend our money on such unnecessary lavishments habitually.

Yes. Yes they do.

Amazingly, that price had remained static when the possibility was floated yet again in 2020:

The twist this time is a proposal to split funding three ways between businesses, the public and the National Lottery (so the public pays twice).

The idea of boosting trade has been there since Gove, and I addressed it last year:

The point about trade deals is interesting at a time when the Tory government is desperately trying to re-establish the UK as a trading nation after severing ties with the European Union.

But who benefits from such deals?

Rich businesspeople, perhaps – but would they pay their taxes or send the cash to tax havens?

If the latter, then why should the public pay for something that will not help us in the slightest?

And that brings me back to RD Hale’s tweet, pointing out that the government could fund nearly 90 million school meals.

Others have made their point too:

I think it will actually be built this time.

And we’ll end up paying for it while Johnson and his layabouts get to traipse around the world in it and their fat Tory donors profit (with the money going into tax havens, as I mentioned above).

Because Boris Johnson has no shame at all.

POSTSCRIPT: There was another tweet, from a guy who said he donated £20 to the Tory Party and was rewarded with a contract to build the new Royal Yacht for £200 million. I laughed because it was funny and I laughed because, in someone’s case, it’s probably true.

Source: Plans for new national flagship to promote ‘best of British’ – BBC News

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Rising price of Grenfell proves Tory cost-cutting is a murderous false economy

Ravaged: this destruction happened because rich Tories wanted to cut a few farthings from their council tax bills. It has ended up costing them more than a thousand times what they hoped to save.

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council has spent more than £400 million trying to cope with the consequences of the Grenfell Tower blaze – a fire caused by its attempt to save just £300,000.

Could anything demonstrate more plainly the bankruptcy of Tory thinking?

If these rich, irresponsible, selfish office-jockeys had not been so keen to shave a few quid off their council tax bills, they would have saved themselves from paying out more than 1,300 times as much.

And 72 human beings would not have died.

I wonder if those responsible ever remember that?

The public costs of the Grenfell Tower fire have exceeded £500m after the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea revealed it had spent £406m on its response and recovery efforts in almost four years since the disaster.

The sum is in addition to the costs to the taxpayer of the ongoing public inquiry, which hit £117m by the end of March this year, most of which was taken up with lawyers’ bills.

The figures stand in stark contrast to the £300,000 saved in a cost-cutting exercise during the refurbishment of the 24-storey council block between 2014 and 2016 that led to combustible aluminium panels being substituted for the planned non-combustible zinc on the exterior of the block.

The plastic-filled replacements fuelled the fire on 14 June 2017 which killed 72 people, the inquiry has already concluded.

Source: Grenfell costs surpass £500m as council bill revealed | Grenfell Tower fire | The Guardian

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£2.6 million was spent on Downing Street TV studio for nothing as media briefings scrapped

The briefest of briefing rooms: your local parish council could have done a better job, and cheaper, but Boris Johnson gave the contract to a company based in a hostile state. Now it is being withdrawn from service. How many times was it used?

Boris Johnson has scrapped plans for White House-style press briefings from a new £2.6 million TV studio in Downing Street – meaning he spent all that public money for nothing.

Apparently the room will be used for internal government briefings by Johnson and his ministers instead. They could do that in any ordinary Whitehall office.

Most of us have been doing much the same from our own homes, using Zoom, Skype, or even Facebook Messenger.

The decision confirms what This Writer believed – that this was nothing but another hugely expensive vanity project for Johnson.

His overspending on fripperies like this, described by some as “spaffing cash up the wall”, has brought a new meaning to the phrase “quantitative easing” (which is what the Bank of England has been having to do in order to allow the nation to cover the cost).

Johnson was shamed into admitting the existence of the studio in February, after it was reported on the social media that, after the huge expense, the space was going unused.

Last month he announced that he would be using the studio after all – and we all warned that he doesn’t have the personality to pull it off.

And then we discovered that the studio had been fitted out by a tech firm based in Russia. Who knows what surveillance equipment was installed there?

(I suppose we’ll find out soon enough, if Johnson really intends to have private briefings there instead of public, press affairs; any really embarrassing secrets will soon get out if the place is full of bugs.)

The whole sorry saga has been a national embarrassment.

Our man-child of a prime minister wanted to play with a new toy that he thought would make him look good – and has wound up looking like a spoilt brat squatting in his own mess.

Source: Downing Street scraps plans for White House-style press briefings – BBC News

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Sunak says home workers should spend cash they’ve saved when the pandemic ends. Including him?

Rishi Sunak’s last big idea was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ – which pushed up Covid-19 infections dramatically. Now he wants us to spend all our savings to buoy up the economy after the crisis ends – but you’ll notice he hasn’t announced that he’ll do the same.

Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that people who work at home, and who have saved significant amounts of money during the Covid-19 pandemic, should spend it all when the emergency is over.

Does that include him?

He works from home – he lives at 11 Downing Street. And we all recently learned that he has enormous amounts of cash saved up, via his wife’s £430 million stake in her family firm.

So we should welcome his demand – right?

Well… maybe not.

He hasn’t said that he will be leading by example, after all.

He has merely demanded that people like This Writer – I work from home (although I can’t say I have built up large amounts of savings) – splurge everything that we have. He hasn’t mentioned anything about doing the same himself – or that other super-rich Tories should do so.

So this is just a call for people – who are normally poor but have become slightly richer – to throw away everything that they’ve saved.

And people have cottoned on to his con:

Personally, I am looking forward to Sunak’s announcement that he has spent his vast wealth to help regenerate the UK’s economy – and to seeing evidence of this spending.

When he has done this, I hope to see this example leading other super-rich members of the UK’s communities to do the same.

Only when they have put their cash into restoration work should the demand trickle down to those of us who are less rich than Rishi and his Tory chums.

That’s right – trickle down. This is one instance where the “trickle down” effect might actually work in the way Tories and other neoliberals used to pretend; not with money gathered by the super-rich trickling down to benefit poorer people, but with cash spent by them revitalising the economy for everyone.

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Sunak’s spending review shows some common sense. But has he put enough cash into it?

Rishi Sunak looking nervous: is he being honest with us? Does he even know?

There were no surprises in the announcements that formed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review – but it did mark a major change.

Sunak has abandoned the failed “starve the beast” economic model that was favoured by George Osborne and that caused such economic havoc between 2010 and 2015.

Instead of forcing austerity on the UK by cutting investment, thereby restricting the amount of money passing through the UK economy and shrinking it, creating a spiral of steadily decreasing funds, Sunak has reverted to a tried, tested and effective model.

He has elected to borrow money and use it to pump fresh blood into the economic veins of the country. The question is: can a Tory ever put enough cash into the system?

This Writer was on Twitter during the Chancellor’s speech, and provided my own commentary throughout. I reproduce it here, along with other comments I’ve picked up:

We should all remember that announcements mean nothing; Labour has announced that it will implement all the recommendations of an EHRC review of the way the party handles anti-Semitism complaints but it seems this is because it won’t make any difference to what the party does.

So we need to watch what the Tories do, and check not only the amounts of money they hand out – but who gets it.

The so-called “chumocracy” has had far too much of our money lately and This Writer, for one, fears that they haven’t finished slurping up the blood that keeps our economy alive, vampires that they are.

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Johnson’s government has spent £100 million on consultants because he can’t think for himself

Spaffer: Boris Johnson has thrown so much money at private consultants and contractors that the UK’s financial stability is in peril.

The cost of privatisation: faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, Boris Johnson has paid consultants more than £100 million to do his thinking for him – and the cash has been wasted.

Clearly it’s money for old rope, considering the failure of every policy announced by Johnson and his cronies including Matt Hancock, Gavin Williamson and Dominic Raab.

And the waste is very clearly a result of privatisation; before Tory neoliberalism demanded that even ideas should be outsourced, governments used to rely on people called civil servants who spent their entire careers in public service and could therefore be relied on to know how things worked.

Those people have been largely ostracised, retired or otherwise cast out by know-nothings like David Cameron, Theresa May and now Johnson, in favour of their know-nothing friends in the private sector. Here’s the gist from the Financial Times:

The UK’s largest consulting firms have been paid more than £100m to advise the government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a string of delayed disclosures from Whitehall in recent weeks. A total of 106 contracts worth £109m have been agreed between various government departments and consulting firms such as PwC, Deloitte and McKinsey since March, as civil servants scrambled for support to source personal protective equipment, set up test and trace programmes and acquire thousands of new ventilators as the pandemic gathered pace.

The UK’s public finances are now in a terrible state after Johnson and his people awarded huge contracts to firms that were incapable of honouring them – some of which even turned out to be dormant companies – on the advice of firms like PwC, Deloitte and McKinsey. Weren’t these people supposed to be cheaper than doing the work in-house?

The government has been mired in scandal because it adopted a biased algorithm to award ‘A’ level results, on the advice of an outsourced consultancy firm.

It’s a well known adage that the definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.

And yet we see Johnson going back to these private consultants for more advice.

Why aren’t we all drawing the obvious conclusion?

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Isn’t it his own influence – rather than public opinion – Johnson is spending a fortune on?

Spend, spend, spend: but Boris Johnson is ensuring that your money only pays his friend’s firms to provide polling that supports his activities, it seems.

It is good that someone is asking why Boris Johnson is spending £2 million this year on opinion polling – even if it is only Parliament’s toothless public accounts committee.

Critics have claimed the Tory – and his government – has been trying to understand public opinion in order to follow it, in order to gain our approval by doing so.

But isn’t it more likely that he is trying to use these polls to tell us what to think, rather than for us to tell him what to do?

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said almost as much in an attempt to justify the spend: “During this unprecedented pandemic it has been vital that people follow public health messages to save lives… This work has helped us to deliver communications campaigns to support the UK’s response.”

It’s about what the Tories communicate to us, you see – not what we tell them.

Oh, and it’s also about funnelling even more public money into the hands of the Tories’ friends, such as the research company linked to Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings that received a plum contract that was never offered on open tender (as would normally have been the case).

The excuse – that Downing Street used legally-sound emergency regulations that permit urgent Covid-related services to be quickly commissioned – was paper-thin at the start.

It disintegrated altogether when it was revealed that some of the work for which the euphemistically-titled People First received the £750,000 contract related to Brexit, not the virus.

Source: Spending watchdog to probe Tory contracts with polling companies worth at least £833,000 | The New European

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