Tag Archives: crony

Crony contract to Tory friends was ‘unlawful’ – but government is lying about the decision

Backhander: the Tory government is still claiming there was nothing wrong with the Public First contract but the High Court’s ruling is final – it was not legal.

The High Court has ruled that a Tory government decision to award a £560,000 contract to friends of a Tory minister and advisor gave rise to “apparent bias” and was unlawful.

The Tories are already trying to spin this by saying there was no suggestion of “actual” bias, and the contract was not awarded due to personal or professional connections between Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings and their friends in Public First, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne. She co-wrote the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto and he worked on the campaign to leave the European Union with Cummings.

I don’t know what the Cabinet Office is trying to achieve by saying that. The judge’s ruling is crystal clear: the government broke the law:

Delivering her ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”

Nothing else matters. Public First and the Cabinet Office can say what they like but the decision to award the contract to Tory cronies was not permitted within the law and that is the end of the matter.

This Site has been reporting on it since July last year, when the contract first became public knowledge.

I wrote at the time: “It’s jobs for the boys, the Old School Tie, and every other example of favouritism you can imagine in the Tory government during the Covid crisis!

“They’re using emergency regulations, that allow services to be commissioned quickly, to pass huge amounts of money to their friends.

“And apparently there’s a conflict of interest as it seems to involve Eurosceptics working on focus group research related to Brexit – parts of the work contracted involved research on public attitudes to Brexit, which is dodgy in a Eurosceptic firm – although a Cabinet Office spokesman said this was a bookkeeping issue. Do you believe that?

“The Tories are using the Covid-19 crisis to funnel public money away from vital services and into their friends’ bank accounts.”

And I quoted The Guardian‘s report which is interesting in that it states the contract was worth £840,000. It’s curious that these amounts always fall when people are in trouble over them – and always rise when public money is being used to pay.

One piece of information that should have been a dead giveaway was the fact that Public First’s registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Public First was also behind the disastrous plan to bias (there’s that word again) ‘A’ level results against students who didn’t go to Public Schools like Eton.

The collaboration led to the result we all know:

The algorithm used by Ofqual downgraded 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers under the process set after the exams were cancelled, leading to a storm of protest from students, parents, school leaders and teachers, that culminated in a complete government U-turn on Monday and the system being scrapped.

Details of this contract were not made public and Ofqual declined to say how much public money had been spent hiring the firm of Tory cronies. It was only later that the organisation had to admit handing over £49,000 of your money to buy poorer results for your children.

Ofqual’s boss at the time, Sally Collier, later resigned – apparently in shame at having given Public First the contract, and at what that firm did with it.

So now here’s the big question: if the contract to Public First was not legal, shouldn’t that money be paid back?

And if so – by whom?

Say what you like about Public First; the work was carried out. Whether it was carried out to an acceptable standard has not been recorded (and the Ofqual experience casts doubt on that) but somebody did the work that was contracted, and we may expect that it was done in good faith.

So, shouldn’t the government minister(s), who broke the law by awarding the contract wrongly, now pay back into public funds at least the £560,000 quoted in the High Court’s judgement?

Matt Hancock, maybe? Or Boris Johnson?

Source: Government acted unlawfully over firm’s £560,000 Covid contract – BBC News

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Tory contracts whitewash: the government has cleared itself of favouritism. So what?

Two-fingered response: your family members died because the Tories didn’t get vital supplies for tackling Covid-19 out in time? Too bad! They were handing the money to their mates and that is all that mattered to them.

Politics has suddenly become so busy that a lot of Tory corruption might get swept under the carpet if we’re not careful – like this example of a person appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying finding the government innocent of favouritism in awarding Covid contracts to Tory cronies:

The report states:

The man appointed by Boris Johnson to probe David Cameron’s lobbying has cleared the government of “favouritism” in the award of £17bn in Covid contracts.

City lawyer Nigel Boardman admitted that some government practices, such as a fast-track “VIP” priority system for firms known to MPs and ministers, gave rise to the “suspicion” of bias.

What do you do if there’s a suspicion of wrong doing? You investigate it.

Did he? Doubtful.

The report said he found no evidence of favouritism. But this is a discussion of cases in which Tory cronies with absolutely no experience of providing the relevant services were offered contracts instead of long-established firms that had been doing just that for years.

It is easy to find no evidence if you’re looking the other way.

Rachel Reeves, who is now Shadow Chancellor, had predicted that the report by Boardman – another Tory crony – would be a whitewash. She responded:

“This barely scratches the surface of the conflicts of interest in government procurement, and the deep and troubling pattern of taxpayers’ money being sunk into crony contracts.

“We need a complete overhaul to tackle cronyism, and an urgent end to emergency procurement measures.”

If such measures are still being employed, then yes – they need to stop. Even Boris Johnson is signalling (for all he’s worth, which is not much if you believe the reports) that any emergency is now over.

And we need to be sure that the money-grubbing that led to 150,000 deaths while Tories handed out useless contracts to their useless friends never happens again.

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Hancock LIED when he said there was never a national PPE shortage. Here’s the evidence. Now demand his resignation

Yet again: the PPE used in UK hospitals at the start of the Covid crisis is pictured bottom right. The infographic was made when the UK had hardly any personal protective equipment – but now Matt Hancock is trying to save his job by claiming there was never any shortage.

The Death Health Secretary is trying to rewrite history:

Did you hear him?

One minute and 40 seconds in: “But there wasn’t a national shortage [of personal protective equipment – PPE] at any point.”

That is simply untrue.

Here he is in April last year, saying he’d love to wave a magic wand to resolve PPE shortages:

The Tory government of the day was told in 2016/17, after Operation Cygnus, that the UK’s health service would be unable to cope with a pandemic virus infection without plentiful supplies of protective equipment for health workers… and decided that such an investment was too expensive.

This led to a situation in March 2020 when an NHS procurement chief, Alan Hoskins tweeted: “What a day, no gowns NHS Supply Chain. Rang every number escalated to NHS England, just got message back — no stock, can’t help, can send you a PPE pack. Losing the will to live, god help us all.”

The tweet was subsequently deleted, possibly under duress as even then the Tory government was trying to hide the facts. As This Writer put it on April 3 last year: “it seems doctors have been warned not to make any comments about shortages on social media, as well as avoiding talking to journalists, and NHS England has taken over media operations for many hospitals and health trusts in order to ensure that they all stay “on message”.”

On April 17 I brought public attention to the plight of nurses who had been forced to wear bin bags instead of proper protection. According to Metro,

Three nurses who wore bin bags on their shifts due to a shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE) have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.

Just weeks ago, the nurses had shared a photo of themselves with clinical waste bags on their heads and feet as they issued a plea for proper masks, gowns and gloves at Northwick Park Hospital, in Harrow.

I wrote: “One of them had said they were all “terrified” that this might happen, knowing that colleagues had caught the disease from patients, and having treated those colleagues. They had seen what the illness does… We know what the government that failed them is going to give them: Platitudes.”

How right I was.

On April 19 I quoted a Sunday Times piece on the Johnson government’s PPE failures that showed he had sent 278,800 items of protective kit to China in February – immediately before the UK had needed it:

Downing Street admitted on February 24 — just five days before NHS chiefs warned a lack of PPE left the health service facing a “nightmare” — that the UK government had supplied 1,800 pairs of goggles and 43,000 disposable gloves, 194,000 sanitising wipes, 37,500 medical gowns and 2,500 face masks to China.

Don’t worry – it seems we may be getting some of it back. It’s just that the government isn’t sure, having lost £15 billion worth of PPE, some of which it has bought (back?) from other countries including China:

The government is not sure where billions of pounds worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) is located, the head of the National Audit Office has disclosed.

Gareth Davies, the comptroller and auditor general, said outside consultants had been brought into Whitehall to find all equipment, which is stored at different sites around the country, or is in transit from abroad.

Under questioning from the public accounts committee, Davies said: “We have been working closely with the DoH. It has commissioned consultants to advise it on first of all understanding where all the PPE that has been bought actually is. It sounds like a strange question but it is a really big issue because it is not all standing neatly in an NHS store somewhere.

“We have amounts in containers, in storage around the country, there’s some on the docks and there is some en route somewhere from China.”

On April 18 last year, I quoted a Mirror report that

NHS doctors and nurses will be asked to treat patients infected with coronavirus without full-length gowns – or re-use the ones they have, it has emerged tonight.

The Government has been under fire for weeks over the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), with some frontline staff warning that they have had to work in situations where they feel unsafe.

Public Health England guidelines currently state that full-length waterproof surgical gowns should by worn by medical workers to stop Covid-19 spreading into someone’s mouth or nose.

However, there has now been a U-turn advising staff to wear a flimsy plastic apron when gowns run out or not wear one at all

And Matt Hancock has the cheek to tell us now that there was never a shortage.

Here’s a tweet about PPE availability in one hospital on April 19:

The following day we learned a much-touted delivery of PPE from Turkey would last just three days. It had been previously reported that Boris Johnson had refused to join an EU scheme to provide PPE where it was needed (see the Peter Stefanovic tweet towards the top of this article).

On April 24 we found

The UK’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) for use in a pandemic…  has been outsourced to a private company, Movianto, which was sold two weeks ago for $133m (£107m) by its owner, a large US healthcare group.

Two days later the Turkish shipment of PPE arrived – and proved to be just one-twelfth of the expected amount.

Later in the Covid crisis we learned that the Tories were using the emergency procurement system which bypasses the competitive tendering process and allows the government to purchase items and services direct from chosen firms, was being abused.

Tories were giving cash to their cronies in return for equipment that simply wasn’t fit to be used.

The classic example is that of Board of Trade president (and cheese queen) Liz Truss, who spent £150 million of your money on 50 million face masks for the NHS that couldn’t be used.

She had been approached for the contract by one of her long-standing friends and advisors, Andrew Mills. Oh, and apparently it was sourced through a tax haven so this guy can keep all the money.

Mills was subsequently removed from his advisory position. But Truss didn’t go anywhere.

Tory ministers “learned the lessons” from this mistake by handing a further £180 million to their cronies for PPE.

Did we get it? Doubtful.

All the way down the line the Tories have failed us.

They gave away our PPE when we needed it.

They failed to join an international scheme to provide it where it was needed.

They failed to source it themselves.

They gave money to their friends and cronies who had no experience in providing PPE, and received trash in return.

As a result, health service professionals caught Covid-19. Many of them died.

And Matt Hancock, who is on video record from last year, saying he wished he could wave a magic wand and eliminate the PPE shortage, is now telling us he shouldn’t have to resign for breaking the law by hiding contract details – because he made sure there was never a PPE shortage.

He is a LIAR.

He should resign NOW.

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Better late than never? Labour demand end to Tory ‘crony contracts’ SEVEN MONTHS after they were reported

Should we be applauding Labour’s demand for the Conservative government to stop handing contracts to firms with links to the Conservative Party?

If so, it should be the slow, mocking handclap that denotes disapproval. This move comes no less than seven months after the so-called Tory ‘chumocracy’ was revealed to the nation.

Did Rachel Reeves have to wait for a focus group to say it was okay to talk about this?

I think so.

And her words ring hollow.

She has said that a Labour government would overturn government outsourcing, bringing contracts back into the public sector, reform Freedom of Information rules to include companies who are awarded government contracts, create an ‘Anti-Corruption and anti-cronyism commissioner’ as a check on government contracts.

But we don’t have a Labour government. And the earliest we can now expect to get one is December 2024.

By then, knowing that Labour is now ruled by focus groups and by politicians who might as well be Tories themselves, we must expect all the policies to be different; Starmer Labour changes to reflect whatever it thinks will get it into power.

If Labour really cared about £2 billion of public money going into the hands of amateurs who did nothing with it, Reeves (or whoever) would have spoken out about it last July, when I did.

Doing it now only lays bare the cynicism at the hollow heart of Starmer Labour.

Source: Labour call for clean up of ‘crony contracts’ as £2bn in deals handed to Tory pals – Mirror Online

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Conservative Covid-19 contracts cronyism: professionals suffer as cash goes to Tory chums

One more time: we can hope the PPE provided by Platform 14 was better than what we see here – but the fact that this Tory-run company beat firms that may be considered better-qualified remains a scandal.

This is an outrage.

A Merseyside company specialising in medical wear from its establishment half a century ago was ignored and passed over by the Tory government’s “emergency” tendering process for PPE contracts.

Meanwhile a former Tory councillor was given £276 million worth of PPE contracts for a company that was dissolved in April 2019 after making a loss of around half a million pounds.

The Merseyside firm – Florence Roby – is having to lay off staff – while the owner of the revived Platform 14 has apparently skimmed £1.5 million off the top of his contract and used it to buy a 17th-century Cotswolds mansion with 100 acres of land.

This is Tory cronyism – and profiteering – at its worst.

If Florence Roby – which has five decades of experience – had won some of these valuable contracts, it would have produced excellent PPE. Moreover, the investment in this well-established firm would have provided employment and security to experts in their field.

You can draw your own conclusions about Platform 14 (est. 2012) from the fact that it managed to run up huge losses in seven years, and from what its owner has done with your money.

These are the decisions the Tories have been making regularly since they started using the so-called “emergency” system to avoid going through a proper tendering process for Covid-19-related contracts.

As a result, the effort to control the disease has been hampered by substandard products – where they have been supplied at all – and amateur manufacturers.

And Boris Johnson has run up a borrowing bill that is expected to total more than 316 billion more than this year’s national deficit, when the financial year ends in April 2021.

He’ll expect you to pay for Steve Dechan’s £1.5 million mansion. How do you feel about it?

Source: Mersey company forced to lay off staff as PPE contracts go to Tory connected firms buying from abroad – Liverpool Echo

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#MyLittleCrony: Johnson and Hancock face court for putting their chums in big jobs they can’t do

Grim faces: this is the only shot This Site has handy of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock together, and it shows them getting a tongue-lashing from Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty. Wouldn’t it be ironic if he was angry about them appointing know-nothing bozos they know from “the club” to vital Covid-fighting jobs instead of experts?

It had to happen – and it couldn’t happen at a more appropriate time.

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock are being taken to court for bypassing normal tendering procedures in order to give important public sector roles to their personal friends.

According to the Huffington Post story, the court case by the Runnymede Trust and the Good Law Project focuses on the Tories appearing to have breached their public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 by filling senior public sector roles with their mates:

Recruitment without open competition may be indirect discrimination on grounds of, in particular, race and disability, contrary to the landmark equality legislation.

The Tories have a defence against that, which is that the rules were waived under emergency procedures, in order to establish new roles to tackle Covid-19 as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But when you consider the kind of people they appointed – people like Dido Harding and Kate Bingham – it seems there’s a strong argument that they won’t be able to substantiate their claim.

And we know about them! What about all the other contracts these Tories have awarded? The contracts we know nothing about – other than their £4 billion cost – because Boris Johnson hasn’t allowed them to be made public?

What is Johnson hiding?

The Twitterati have made up their own minds already:

Notably:

There appears to be a considerable amount of public support for this legal action against the government. A crowd fundraising effort towards litigation fees titled It’s Time For An End To Cronyism has achieved its £30,000 goal in just 24 hours.

Best thing to come out of it? This:

The extent of the corruption and cronyism this app maps out is horrifying – and all using public money belonging to the people of the UK.

We deserve better – especially when the issue at hand is a global pandemic that is raging through the country, killing our loved ones at the rate of one every three minutes.

This court case cannot start soon enough. The evidence alone should be devastating to Johnson, the Tories … and, of course, their cronies.

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Kate Bingham: ‘vaccines tsar’ resigns amid ‘dodgy cronyism’ claims – and Johnson THANKS her for her work

Kate Bingham: you probably don’t know her but she’s a venture capitalist who was appointed to lead Boris Johnson’s vaccines taskforce – something about which she knew nothing – because her husband is a minister in Boris Johnson’s government. She then spent £670,000 on public relations, using a firm linked to Dominic Cummings’s father-in-law. And there’s a claim that she showed private government documents to US financiers at a $200-a-head conference.

This tweet has aged badly – and at the time of writing it’s not 24 hours since it was written:

He was referring to Kate Bingham. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s not surprising. She’s another unqualified crony of Boris Johnson and his Tories, given a role as head of Johnson’s “vaccines taskforce” because she knows him (she is married to a Tory minister, Jesse Norman).

She knew nothing about vaccines when she was appointed; she’s a venture capitalist. And now she has announced she is retiring at the end of the year.

Her announcement came after some embarrassing revelations became public:

Worse was to come:

The Mirror story claims that in addition to spaffing £670,000 on a public relations firm, Bingham showed US financiers private government documents at a $200-a-head conference.

Oh, and that £670K PR firm? Linked to Dominic Cummings’s father-in-law, apparently:

The stink of corrupt cronyism is ripe here.

But Death Secretary Matt Hancock insisted to the Mirror that Bingham’s retirement is nothing to do with the revelations. It was always a six-month job, set to end at the year, he said.

So why announce it? And why make the announcement right after these embarrassing revelations?

Could it be that Johnson, Hancock, the Tory government and its remaining cronies were hoping to avoid further examination of their decisions in appointing unqualified friends to vital Covid-19 related jobs, rather than people who knew what they were doing?

If so, it seems they were set to be disappointed…

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Dido Harding’s evidence to MPs shows why Tories shouldn’t give jobs to their cronies

The head of Serco – not NHS – Test and Trace demonstrated the failures, not only of her fake Covid-19 response organisation, but of the system that allows Conservative ministers to appoint their buddies to important jobs – just by turning up to talk about it.

Dido Harding – whose qualifications to run a business charged with contact tracing people who may have Covid-19 include having been a jockey and failing to run a telecoms/internet supplier – duly made a fool of herself before a joint meeting of Parliament’s health and social care committee and science and technology committee.

This Writer didn’t see the session so I’m relying on information from Twitter sources – and it isn’t flattering:

It’s a good point to make because the private firms do not come up to the standard of service we expect from the NHS – and that the NHS would provide.

So now we see not only that private companies are being paid a hell of a lot of money to provide very little, but also that the public authorities that have had to take up the slack and actually do something are not receiving any of this funding to do it. What a bare-faced charlatan Ms Harding was showing herself to be.

Worse was to follow:

The conclusion? Some commenters resorted to satire:

But many drew the obvious conclusion – as epitomised here:

That’s right – and Boris Johnson, together with his colleagues in the Conservative government that he heads, is responsible for employing them, using a system that bypasses competitive tendering by claiming it’s an emergency and time is of the essence.

It is now a year since Boris Johnson was first made aware of Covid-19. He wasted four months pretending it wasn’t any reason for concern and then used that system to appoint personal friends of his who achieved nothing.

It’s time the madness was stopped and competitive tendering was reintroduced so we can clear out the cowboys and bring back the professionals.

And it’s time Johnson and his cronies were brought to book for their cavalier spaffing of our cash on know-nothing amateurs.

Strangely enough, it seems that’s exactly what is going to happen…

Source: Typhoid Dido proves fluent in management bollocks and contradiction | John Crace | Politics | The Guardian

Ofqual chief Sally Collier resigns – over letting Cummings chum’s company have contract?

Exams: If Sally Collier had examined Public First a little more closely, she might not have had to resign.

The big development in the ‘A’ level scandal yesterday (August 25) was the resignation of Ofqual boss Sally Collier – apparently under criticism about the algorithm that marked down students from poorer backgrounds.

That’s what Tory mouthpiece the BBC is saying:

Ofqual chief Ms Collier has been under fire for a controversial algorithm which changed GCSE and A-level marks, making them unfair, according to heads.

It also led to many A-level students losing university places they had been offered, and a crunch on degree places.

But didn’t that only happen because Ofqual had hired useless lobbying/research firm Public First, run by friends of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove?

A spokesperson said: “Due to the exceptional circumstances presented by the cancellation of exams, the single tender justification process was used for this contract, due to the need to urgently procure the work, in line with our procurement policy.”

This comment makes it clear that Public First was hired to find a way forward for students’ exam results. It came up with the infamous algorithm and caused a scandal.

And we now know that the government paid £49,000 for that disaster.

So it seems Ms Collier has resigned, but the fault lies with James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, the people behind Public First.

Other contracts given to the firm under the “no competition” regulations which apply when a service is deemed “urgent” during emergency circumstances include £840,000 to research public opinion on government policies – including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not bad for a firm whose registered office is a residential address – a house – in Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire.

Another contract saw the company handed £116,000 by the Department of Health and Social Care to identify ways to “lock in the lessons learned” by the Government during the Covid-19 crisis.

But will the Tories learn the obvious lesson – that Public First should not be hired to carry out any work under any circumstances at all, whether in an emergency or not?

It seems doubtful.

Source: Ofqual chief Sally Collier steps down after exams chaos – BBC News

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Spendthrift Tories have spaffed £500 MILLION on firms run by their friends – that do NOTHING

‘Spaffer’: Boris Johnson is throwing money the UK doesn’t have at his mates’ companies. What will you do when he tells you to pay off the debt?

In a week when we learned the Tories have more than doubled the national debt to £2 trillion, a mere £500 million might not seem much.

It’s around 1/200th, or half a per cent, of the total they’ve borrowed since 2010.

But this is money they have spent in the last six months alone – on contracts with companies run by their personal friends… that have apparently done nothing useful in return.

According to the Labour Party, 13 firms run by friends of Tory ministers have won contracts related to Covid-19, without having to go through a competitive tendering process.

Here’s what they’ve done with the money:

One firm, Randox, received £133million for Covid testing.

It pays Tory MP and former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson £8,333 a month as an adviser.

Earlier this month, 750,000 unused Randox testing kits were ­recalled over safety concerns.

How about the Serco ‘test and trace’ fiasco?

Serco is paid £108million for running the national contact-tracing service and nearly £46million by the DWP to run call centres.

Health minister Edward Argar was a senior executive and boss Rupert Soames is brother of former Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames.

In November 2019, Rupert Soames’ wife Camilla donated £4,995 to the Tory Party.

Here are the other firms mentioned in the Mirror article:

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which won seven contracts, hired Theresa May’s former top aide Gavin Barwell as a strategic adviser in January.

He is also a non-executive adviser at Arcadis – which was given a £1.5million consultancy contract with the Ministry of Justice in April.

Public First Ltd gets £840,000 to run focus groups for No10. It is owned by James Frayne, who started the New Frontiers think tank in 2003 with Dominic Cummings.

Dragontown Ltd was awarded a contract worth £675,000 to supply PPE to London’s Guys’ and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Lady Xuelin Bates, a director of this firm, is the wife of Tory peer and former minister Lord Bates and has donated £30,000 to the Tories.

If we had anything to show for this emptying of the public purse, there might be some justification for these contracts – but we don’t.

This is nepotism intended to further enrich the undeserving while bankrupting the nation.

Expect Boris Johnson to demand that, now he and his spendthrift mates have run up a huge debt, you have to pay it off.

Source: Firms linked to Tories have won £500m coronavirus contracts without having to bid – Mirror Online

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