The government’s struggling Test and Trace service sent a Liverpool family on a 140-mile round trip to a testing centre that turned out to be closed.
Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden described the bungle as he tore into the Tories’ “incompetence, cronyism and ideological obsession with outsourcing” that he said had led to “anger and frustration” across Liverpool.
Addressing the Commons, he blamed the “failings” in the Test and Trace system on the government pumping money into “scandal-ridden contractors” with “record of failure after failure”.
The Labour MP said it was “difficult” to describe the “real strength of feeling across Liverpool at the utter failure of this government”.
“Constituent after constituent has come to my office with heartbreaking stories,” he said.
“One was sent to south Wales on a 70-mile journey, two-and-a-half hours in the car with an autistic child, only to find that the Test and Trace centre had closed for the day because it had run out of tests. The petrol cost them £40 that they simply did not have.
“The anger and frustration are not just at the fact that the response is failing, but that it is failing because the government refused to enable and invest in local authorities and public health teams, and instead chose to pump billions into scandal-ridden government contractors that have a record of failure after failure.
“Under the cover of this pandemic, billions of pounds of public money has been handed to faceless corporations, including Tory-linked firms, without competition or transparency, and without democratic accountability – or any accountability to the public, for that matter.
“It is money that should have been invested in our National Health Service and that should have left a legacy for the British people by building up the properly funded public services we can all rely on in the future, but instead it was siphoned off.”
He took particular aim at the “cronyism” within the government in the appointments of Dido Harding at the head of Test and Trace and Rupert Soames – brother of former Tory MP Nicholas Soames – as head of Serco, one of the firms running the service.
“The whole thing stinks,” he continued. “This government’s incompetence, cronyism and ideological obsession with outsourcing and rip-off privatisation have undermined our NHS and put lives at risk.”
Carden is but one of the many MPs who have savaged the government’s “failing” contact tracing regime, which is largely managed by private firms.
On Wednesday Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves accused the government of “murky” subcontracting as she urged Boris Johnson to “change course” from the “failed model of outsourcing”.
The frontbencher said Johnson’s “world-beating” testing regime is “barely functioning”, adding: “It’s failing to reach people who have come into contact with someone with the virus, it’s not getting information to local councils who need need to act on it, and it’s wasting hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of taxpayers’ money that could be spent on a local response using local expertise.”
The latest figures for NHS Test and Trace showed that just 62.6% of cases in England were being reached and told to self-isolate – making it the worst since the system was launched in May, and down on the previous week’s 68.8%, itself a record low at the time.