October 23, 2020

Coronavirus: Gove defends £7,000 day rate for test-and-trace consultants

October 18, 2020

Michael Gove has been accused of being in "cloud cuckoo land" after he defended spending £7,000 a day on consultants brought in to work on the government's test and trace system.

Asked whether the fees were a good use of public money, the cabinet minister replied: "Yes."

Sky News revealed on Thursday that Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was paid about £10m for a team of around 40 consultants to do four months' work between the end of April and late August.

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The figure translates into day rates of around £7,000, and an annual salary of about £1.5m.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has described the figures as "truly shocking", adding that "such huge sums of money are being spent on something that isn't fit for purpose".

Official figures published on Thursday showed that in the latest period for which there is data - the week to 7 October - the proportion of contacts successfully reached in England dropped to 62.9% - the lowest since the creation of the system, which is budgeted to cost £12bn this year.

Justifying the use of consultants, Mr Gove said it was "absolutely vital that we have all the expertise required from the private and the public sector in order to improve testing".

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr, he added: "Separately, I've been clear as my colleague Lord Agnew in the Cabinet Office has, that we need to reduce our spend on consultants overall, but in the meantime, we'll do whatever it takes to make sure that we protect the NHS."

Responding to the comments, Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy tweeted that the "government is in cloud cuckoo land".

Baroness Dido Harding, who was brought in to lead test and trace, said in an interview last week that she doubts it will be a "silver bullet to fighting the virus".

She added: "It has never been and it never will be. The virus unfortunately doesn't behave in such a way that there is a silver bullet.

"The only way that we're going to learn how to live with COVID is through a number of different interventions, of which test and trace is undoubtedly a very important one."

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