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Mon 30 November 2020
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The Shadow Cabinet Office Minister has condemned the awarding of procurement contracts to Conservative-linked firms without competition as ‘outrageous’

The total value of Government contracts awarded to Conservative-linked firms for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) has surged to more than half a billion pounds, Byline Times can reveal.

Since 21 September, when this newspaper revealed that £364 million worth of deals had been won by Conservative backers, two new contracts have been released – taking the total to £526.3 million.

On 30 September, the Government published documents revealing a £156.3 million deal for the supply of isolation gowns, awarded to P14 Medical. The contract started on 5 June and ended just a day later, suggesting a single bulk order of equipment. Other firms were not able to compete for the contract, as the Government invoked an EU clause that allows normal tender procedures to be abandoned during an emergency.

P14 Medical is co-owned and run by Steve Dechan, a Conservative councillor in Gloucestershire. The firm – which specialises in the supply of pain management equipment – has 10 employees and made a £486,000 loss in 2019 on revenues of roughly £500,000.

Dechan’s firm was previously awarded two deals for the supply of face shields in April, worth a total of £120.2 million.

Dechan told The Times in August that the contracts were not awarded because of his links to the Conservative Party and that the Government has been “delighted” with the 120 million face shields delivered so far.

“We’ve had zero complaints,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder of how we managed such large numbers in such a short time.”

Another recent beneficiary has been Meller Designs, with newly-released documents showing that the firm won a £6 million contract on 14 June. The documents do not state the type of PPE supplied and the deal was again awarded without competition.

Previously, the firm has been awarded deals for the supply of hand sanitiser and face masks worth £148.7 million. Meller Designs specialises in supplying home and beauty products to high street retailers, including Marks & Spencer, and is owned by David Meller – who has donated nearly £60,000 to Conservative politicians and the central party since 2009.

The firm recorded a turnover of £12.8 million in 2019 and £13.7 million in 2018. A Meller Designs spokesperson told The Times: “We are extremely proud of the role we played at the height of the crisis and managed to secure more than 150 million items of PPE.”

Running total: £431.2 million

To be added to this tally is the £93.8 million contracts awarded to Globus (Shetland) Limited for the supply of FFP3 respirators – a firm that has donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party since 2016. OpenDemocracy has reported that the company’s CEO Haraldur Agustsson has previously been part of the ‘Leader’s Group’ – an alliance of elite Conservative donors that are granted access to senior party figures in exchange for large donations.

Globus (Shetland) does appear to specialise in the manufacture of PPE. On its website, the firm states that it has 25 years of experience in supplying “industry and healthcare”, which includes manufacturing respirators. In 2019, the company turned over £50 million, following a £45.8 million turnover in 2018.

Finally, a company called Clipper Logistics won a £1.3 million contract to distribute PPE, according to The Times. The founder and executive chairman of Clipper Logistics is Steve Parkin, who has donated more than £500,000 to the Conservative Party.

Clipper Logistics declined to comment when approached by The Times.

Total: £526.3 million


‘Money is Being Siphoned’

This spending does not take into account the million-pound contracts awarded to consultancy firms with links to Boris Johnson’s administration.

The company that ran the Conservative Party’s social media operation during the 2019 General Election, for example, has been awarded a £3 million Government deal to manage online Coronavirus communications. This adds to a series of contracts given to to a company co-owned by a close ally of Dominic Cummings and the co-author of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto.

Billions of pounds have been awarded to private sector firms by the Government during the Coronavirus pandemic. The total budget for PPE procurement is £13.8 billion, according to the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, while the Government has allocated £12 billion to its ‘test, trace and isolate’ scheme this year.

Much of this budget has been awarded to corporate outsourcing giants such as Serco and Deloitte, but smaller companies have also benefitted.

Byline Times has exposed deals worth millions of pounds awarded to a small luxury packaging company, a 44 day-old firm, a dormant company with one director, and a lifestyle firm with no trading history.

“It is crucial that the public has total confidence that the best decisions are being made for the right reasons on something as valuable and crucial as PPE, and that no one has been advantaged in any way because of their party political relationships,” Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves told Byline Times.

“It is outrageous that so much public money is being siphoned to Tory friends and donors.”

Given the Government’s continued outsourcing drive, it seems highly likely that there will be more to come.


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