Major probe reveals public sector squanders £5.6bn of your cash 

Major probe reveals public sector squanders £5.6bn of your cash 

A shocking waste of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is exposed by the Mail today.

A major investigation has found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries, feathering Whitehall mandarins’ nests and a wide range of jaw-dropping projects.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation’s finances after spending hundreds of billions tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

The investigation – carried out with the TaxPayers’ Alliance – involved more than 4,000 Freedom of Information requests, and the analysis of thousands of government contracts and databases. 

Ofcom’s new chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes (pictured with Prince William at Buckingham Palace) pocketed between £15,000 and £20,000 on top of her salary

Ofcom’s new chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes (pictured with Prince William at Buckingham Palace) pocketed between £15,000 and £20,000 on top of her salary 

The exact waste figure the Mail arrived at was £5,577,988,036.64.

Our probe into the state sector gravy train exposed how:

  • Whitehall mandarins banked at least £42 million in bonuses last year, and taxpayers stumped up £81 million for trade union representatives to take time off work;
  • Thousands were spent on first-class flights at the Treasury;
  • Millions were earmarked for government staff to work from home, including the purchase of designer furniture;
  • Hipster takeaways worth a total of £50,000 were ferried to the health department during lockdown;
  • Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on a day at the zoo;
  • Almost £500,000 was shelled out on an art collection the public never sees.

Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: ‘There is no magic money pot – this is taxpayers’ money that’s being spent at a time when the low-paid and hard-working people have seen a massive cut in income or lost their livelihood.

‘It’s important that everyone responsible for the management of taxpayers’ money is held to account and the Daily Mail’s investigation is a vital part of that accountability. All public servants need to remember whose money it is and be careful about their spending.

‘Meals in luxury restaurants are not necessary and not on when so many people are relying on food banks.’

The major investigation found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries. Pictured: Covent Garden's The Delaunay

The major investigation found that £5.6 billion in public cash has been frittered away on luxuries. Pictured: Covent Garden’s The Delaunay 

 

Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on luxury beds for dogs

Thousands were spent on luxury restaurants, steakhouses and even on luxury beds for dogs

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘Boris Johnson’s Government is wasting so much money, their competence in spending taxpayers’ money has to be seriously questioned.

‘Ministers have been on a spending spree with taxpayers’ credit cards – and look set to charge us the interest.’

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This investigation is just the tip of the iceberg.

‘Tens of billions of pounds are still squandered each year, and if we eradicate waste it leaves the room for lower, simpler taxes, promoting economic growth and funding better public services. 

‘The Chancellor must stop writing blank cheques using taxpayers’ money – and wasteful bureaucrats must end the absurd claims that there are simply no more savings to be found.’

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation's finances

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to set out a plan for taking back control of the nation’s finances

In his spending review on Wednesday, Mr Sunak will announce a £3 billion package to support the NHS in recovering from the pandemic – a massive amount, but only half the amount the Mail has uncovered as waste. 

Similarly, nearly four million public-sector workers, including soldiers, police officers and teachers, face a pay freeze next year, which is expected to save £3.4 billion.

The Chancellor last night vowed to carry on spending as he hinted that major tax rises will be delayed until the ‘fog of uncertainty’ caused by the pandemic has cleared. But he acknowledged the pandemic had triggered an ‘economic shock’ that would require tough decisions on tax and spending in future.

The Mail’s investigation highlights how Mr Sunak’s own department, the Treasury, invoiced the taxpayer £23,400 for travel, including first-class air fares, earlier this year.

The Mail also analysed the spending of government procurement cards since January. They represent only a fraction of overall public expenditure, but are a mine of information.

Some of the most outlandish purchases were made via these electronic cards, similar to debit or credit cards.

A Government spokesman, on behalf of Whitehall departments, said: ‘We are committed to delivering the best value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way. 

‘We routinely publish our expenditure to maintain transparency and ensure that we are held to account by Parliament, the Press and the public.’

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