The shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, will accuse the Conservatives of wasting billions of pounds of public money through botched outsourcing and poorly-designed job schemes, as she delivers her party conference speech on Monday.
Addressing “Connected”, an online event replacing Labour’s annual conference, Dodds will highlight a “file of failure”, as she seeks to underline the Tories’ poor record.
She will claim that Rishi Sunak’s “job retention bonus,” the £1,000-a-head payout that firms will be able to claim in January for staff they have brought back from furlough and kept on the payroll, could mean £2.6bn being paid to firms that would have retained staff anyway.
And Dodds will also raise questions about a series of outsourcing contracts, including £133m paid to a consortium involving Randox, the testing firm that employs the former Tory minister Owen Paterson, and £150m for facemasks that weren’t suitable for frontline NHS staff, from the investment firm Ayanda. She will accuse the chancellor of having a “cavalier” attitude to spending public money.
Dodds will set out more details of what a Labour government would do to protect the jobs market in the coming months, including a “national retraining strategy” to help prepare for alternative employment, and support for businesses who may struggle to repay the emergency loans they received from the Treasury.
Labour has repeatedly warned about the risks of bringing the government’s furlough scheme to an abrupt end next month, but had previously given few details about what should replace it, saying it must not be “one size fits all”.
Dodds has been a relatively low-key figure since becoming Keir Starmer’s surprise pick for shadow chancellor. Labour strategists are keen to raise her profile as they present the shadow cabinet as a government in waiting.
She will contrast her record of campaigning for tougher financial regulation in parliament and before that as an MEP, with Sunak’s past jobs in the City.
“While the chancellor was profiting from a financial system that took huge risks and then passed them on to ordinary people, I helped to rein it in,” Dodds will say.
Responding to reports of what Dodds planned to say, Steve Barclay MP, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “All Sir Keir Starmer and his team have to offer are the recycled economic plans of Jeremy Corbyn, which would hold our country back and hinder our recovery from coronavirus.”
Dodds’ intervention comes as Labour seeks to put the pressure on the Conservatives for cronyism.
Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Angela Smith, has written to the new cabinet secretary, calling the Tory peer Dido Harding’s appointment to be head of the new National Institute for Health Protection a “flagrant” breach of the civil service code.
Civil servants are not allowed to act “in a way determined by party political considerations” – but Harding has continued to vote on the Conservative side in the Lords.
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