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What the £150 million Conservative catalogue of waste means for our city


I doubt many people have heard of Government Procurement Cards, but in Parliament, these are the equivalent of debit cards, but instead of spending personal money, they’re funded by the taxpayer. They are used to buy goods and services in shops, over the phone and online, without having to go through normal invoicing procedures.


In 2021, almost £150 million was spent using these cards across 14 of the biggest government departments. When the Labour Party looked through records and asked questions to ministers, we found a scandalous catalogue of wasteful and excessive spending.


Taxpayers’ money being frittered away on luxury furniture, five-star hotels, and four-figure bills in bars and restaurants. Ministers spending thousands of pounds hiring chauffeur services, organising lavish events, and hosting privately catered dinners. Foreign visitors being treated to expensive gifts, lunches and receptions. And Whitehall departments spending small fortunes on corporate branding, expensive away-day venues, and ludicrous training courses.


The individual examples are enough to make you so angry, whether it’s Rishi Sunak’s Treasury spending £3,393 on 13 photographs from The Tate Gallery to hang in their office, or Suella Braverman’s media team spending £724 on a four-metre wide 'Panoramic Limestone Background' from an Italian photo company to use as a backdrop for her photos and videos.


This would all be unacceptable at the best of times, but during the worst cost of living crisis for decades, it is just unforgivable. Do Tory ministers not know how much people in communities like ours are struggling financially, or do they just not care?


If I think of just last week, I had three single mothers who got in touch with me because, through no fault of their own, they now find themselves in a position where they cannot afford to clothe or feed their young children. We are fortunate to have a baby bank in the constituency which provided clothes and formula for the children and my office arranged food bank vouchers and fuel bank vouchers for the mothers. For me, the bigger question is how our society has reached a point that we accept such things as baby banks being a part of our lives and yet, we don’t question when our government fritter away money needlessly like this. We keep being told there is no more money available to support households in situations like that, but we now discover that Liz Truss treated herself to a £3,240 VIP suite at Heathrow to freshen up after a trans-Atlantic flight. This is not right and I for one do not accept or forgive it.


These may be called Government Procurement Cards, but the Tories have clearly forgotten that it is the public footing the bill. That cannot continue, and under a Labour government, we will make sure it ends, imposing rigorous new standards across Whitehall and making sure they are enforced. But we should not have to wait until then. If you agree with me, get in touch and let me know, and I will make sure your voice is heard among all those demanding that this gravy train is brought to a stop.

You can see full details of Labour’s report into Government Procurement Card spending at www.theGPCfiles.com, and see for yourself all 66,000 items of spending from the 14 Whitehall departments examined.

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