Government spending on storing personal protective equipment (PPE) in China increased by £2.35m in the year to January – as households struggle to make ends meet amid the cost of living crisis.
According to data revealed by the Labour Party, the taxpayer paid £23.5m to store life-saving protective equipment from February 2021 to January 2022 – but in the same period the following year, that had ballooned to £25.9m.
Sky News can also reveal that – according to exclusive data from the TaxPayers’ Alliance – the government spent a total of £312m on storing PPE between January 2022 and January 2023.
In January 2023 alone, the total cost of PPE storage amounted to £18m, down from £35m in the same month of 2022, meaning PPE storage is still costing the taxpayer £580,000 a day.
And if this cost per day was replicated for the rest of 2023, we could expect PPE storage to cost £211m in 2023 alone, down from £294m in 2022.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The British public will be understandably sickened by this eye watering waste of taxpayers’ money.
“With families in Britain set to pay yet another council tax hike forced upon them, they’ll be justly outraged to learn yet more of their hard-earned taxes are still being shipped to China every day to meet eye-watering storage costs for useless PPE they’d already stumped up billions for. It’s adding insult to injury.
“A Labour government will get tough on waste, with an Office of Value for Money to ensure every penny of taxpayers’ money is treated with respect.”
According to the party’s analysis, the amount the government spends on PPE storage in China could be used to pay for 512 tanks of petrol a day – or the annual energy bill for almost 18,000 one-bedroom flats in the UK.
PPE storage costs have fallen since the pandemic and the government has vowed to reduce the sum it spends on storing the 5.8 billion items of excess PPE that the UK still has.
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Since the height of the pandemic, PPE storage costs have reduced significantly, and we continue to prioritise efforts to minimise them. We have already reduced storage costs by 78% since the first three months of 2021.
“We continue to sell, donate, repurpose and recycle excess PPE in the most cost-effective way, as well as seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible to ensure taxpayer value for money.”
As the UK continues to grapple with the cost of living crisis and ongoing strikes contribute to economic stagnation, government spending continue to come under heavy scrutiny as the tax burden remains the highest in 50 years.
According to the Office for National Statistics, inflation remains at 10.4% and food inflation stands at 18.2% – making everyday essentials more difficult to afford for many families.