Billions lost on wasteful Whitehall projects and spending 'on luxury villa and vegan ice cream'

17 November 2022, 08:53 | Updated: 17 November 2022, 10:49

£105.6m was spent on unusable plans for HS2’s Euston station
£105.6m was spent on unusable plans for HS2’s Euston station. Picture: Artist's impression/TfL

By Asher McShane

The Government has been accused of 'squandering' billions of pounds on badly-managed projects and ‘frivolous’ items including a luxury villa and vegan ice cream.

An investigation by the Telegraph found £14bn of taxpayers’ money had been spent since the start of last year on badly-managed infrastructure projects that were either changed or delayed, fraudulent Covid support, and inadequate PPE, as well as items including £6,000 spent on a villa in Italy.

Today Jeremy Hunt prepares to close a £50bn hole in Britain’s finances in his Autumn statement with millions preparing for painful tax rises, including a large hike to Council tax. Swingeing cuts to public services that will impact the police, NHS and schools are also expected.

Live updates: Hunt to unveil brutal package of tax rises and spending cuts to curb Britain’s spiralling debts

'Britain must face into the storm': Hunt to reveal new taxes and help as he patches £50bn black hole

Hunt to unveil brutal package of tax rises and spending cuts to curb Britain’s spiralling debts

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Every pound of taxpayers’ money wasted is a pound that’s not spent either on public and public services or on tax cuts. And that actually does hit the taxpayer in the pocket.”

The money wasted would have covered more than half of Mr Hunt’s expected tax raid.

The investigation found:

  • £4bn spent on unsuitable PPE, with £2.6m of it unsuitable for use, £670m worth defective, £750m surplus to requirements
  • Billions wasted on infrastructure plans that were changed - including £105.6m on unusable plans for HS2’s Euston station
  • £98m on an electronic tagging programme that was written off

It also found items were purchased including

  • £837 on Vegan ice cream
  • £6,836 on a villa party in Naples
  • £14,000 on staff training by RADA actors
  • £6,091 on an amusement park in Sydney

A government spokesman told the paper they are “committed to delivering the best value for money, cutting waste and inefficiency and ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best possible way.

“That includes selling under-used government buildings, digitising public services, harnessing innovation, and cracking down on fraud.

“We… are working to recover fraudulent or payments made in error - we have already recovered over £1 billion and are significantly reducing PPE storage costs.”

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