The shock resignation of a Government Treasury Minister yesterday has raised further concerns over the government’s handling of public finances during the pandemic yesterday. Having already faced extensive criticism for the awarding of numerous crony contracts, wasting millions on dodgy PPE and the value of the £37 billion test and trace programme, it has now emerged that the government has written off £4.3 billion of fraudulently claimed covid support loans – equivalent to £156 per household, which equates to £14,679,600 across Oldham Borough.

Lord Agnew, who until yesterday was the Minister for Efficiency and Transformation, resigned in response to a Labour question in the House of Lords around the £4.3 billion of fraudulently claimed loans being written off. Resigning he said “…the current state of affairs is not acceptable. Given that I am the minister responsible for counter-fraud it feels somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly, let alone defending our track record.He went on to say that “a combination of arrogance, indolence and ignorance” was “freezing the government machine” and accused the treasury of making “schoolboy errors” by awarding loans to companies that were not trading at the outset of the pandemic.

The £4.3 billion in Covid fraud that Conservative Chancellor Rishi Sunak wrote off last week is the equivalent of 128,000 nurses’ salaries, 146,000 police officers, or 1 and a half QE class aircraft carriers.

Labour’s Cllr Abdul Jabbar, Oldham Council’s Deputy Leader said “It is sickening to see our government writing off so much tax payer’s money through their own incompetence. Over the last decade Oldham Council has lost over £216 million due to Tory and Liberal Democrat cuts and is now having to support local residents through this government’s cost of living crisis. Whilst they are happy to write off £4.3 billion in fraud, our residents face Universal Credit cuts and National Insurance hikes as inflation soars to its highest point in decades.”

Oldham’s Housing lead, Labour’s Cllr Hannah Roberts added “They need to spend less time checking the wine fridge and more time checking who they are giving £billions of our money to. Here in Oldham, we are doing our best to support local residents through the Tories’ cost of living crisis. Rent rises for Oldham Council tenants will be half the government’s recommendation and we have a helpline available. Anyone who is struggling with rising costs of living should call 0161 770 7007.” 

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