The Beginner’s Guide to Government Waste

At the end of November, we finally unveiled the results of our months-long investigation with the Daily Mail. The front page series revealed the £5.6bn of waste which our teams had uncovered in a mountain of thousands of FOIs, public records and government releases.


The stellar Daily Mail team, led by Sian Boyle, carried the message of the TPA’s War on Waste campaign to millions, with cabinet ministers confronted about the waste on live TV


But as we all know, that doesn’t mean the fight is over. Careless bureaucrats and feckless politicians have been wasting our cash for years, and will still be doing so long into the future. Stopping wasteful spending is a never-ending task, with wins few and far between. While we were able to finally see our TPA public sector exit payments cap implemented last year, that wasn’t before thousands of Whitehall mandarins had bolted out the door with mega-payoffs. Many are still enjoying golden goodbyes. Exit payments were just the beginning. 


In this financial year, the government will spend £1.2 trillion. The budget for the Department for Work and Pensions alone was £197bn in 2019-20. Waste is all around, and our investigation was just the tip of the iceberg. 


Let’s take just one example - government procurement card spending. The Daily Mail brilliantly laid out the jaunts the jollies taken on the taxpayer’s credit card: thousand pound meals at The Delaunay in Covent Garden, and £1,343.10 spent on steaks for an event to ‘increase UK trade and investment’. But it wasn’t just wining and dining. 


The British public also subsidised an interiors splurge to the tune of at least £210,000 in 2020. Almost half of the spending - £106,446 - was logged after the start of the first lockdown. The money was spent via FCDO Services, a Trading Fund of the Foreign Office, its parent organisation.


Whitehall departments must declare any spending over £500, and since January, FCDO Services has racked up a procurement card spend of £206,637.56 on stylish interior designs alone. The interior design spending was filed under mundane categories such as ‘Equipment and furniture’ and ‘Facilities/repair supplies’. Diplomats were busy getting their residences and offices upgraded, even as the rest of us were plunged into lockdown in our homes.

Now, let’s be honest - compared to the £394bn covid bill, this seems like small beer. But waste adds up. That £5.6bn of waste is just shy of the £6bn needed to pay for the universal credit uplift that the Westminster bubble has been rowing about. It’s a 1p reduction in income tax for 30 million taxpayers, with spare change left over. And that’s just a single year, drawn from a relatively small sample of government spending - before you even start looking at the mammoth welfare budget, or the shockingly wasteful transport and HS2 budget, for example.


Our War on Waste investigation with the Daily Mail team wasn’t an exhaustive list of every penny lost - if anything, it was a beginner’s guide to government waste. We’ve laid the groundwork for a renewed fightback on government waste. With Labour once again calling out the wasteful attitudes of government ministers, Tory backbenchers losing patience and taxpayers worried about their own household finances, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has plenty more work planned on exposing money poorly spent. We’re proud to be Britain’s unofficial waste watchdog. 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay