Norfolk MP on Commons committee slams 'extraordinary' test-and-trace cost

North West Norfolk MP James Wild. Picture: Denise Bradley

James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, sits on  Commons Public Accounts Committee - Credit: Denise Bradley

A Norfolk MP has said "mistakes have been made" in the creation of the multi-billion test and trace system, which is today in the firing line for appearing to have no effect on Covid infection levels.

James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, sits on the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which has released a critical report of the system and has urged the Government to justify the "staggering investment of taxpayers' money".

Speaking on Radio Norfolk on Wednesday, Mr Wild said the main area the report highlighted was the overuse of consultants, of which there were 2,500 employed at an estimated daily rate of £1,100 in February.

The highest paid staff member received £6,624 a day.

Mr Wild said: "The scale of the operation has been immense and has had to be set up at incredible speed but that has brought problems with it such as the overuse of consultants. 

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"Extraordinarily an individual had been paid up to £6,000 a day, which I find a staggering amount of money, and my constituents will find it hard to see how that is value for money."

He said going forward testing would be more important as lockdown measures eased due to the estimated one in three people who have coronavirus not showing symptoms.

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He said: "We need to learn the lessons as we take this forward because testing is going to be with us for time to come.

"What we do have now is huge testing capacity when we started without any and another theme that comes through from our reports is we weren't properly prepared for this kind of pandemic. That's caused issues with access to PPE and we need to learn and be ready for the next crisis that might come."

He said: "There have been mistakes along the way and money has been spent. We are now in a position where we have that testing capacity to help us move forward and hopefully get back to some more normality."

The report was critical of data for failing to show the speed of the process from "cough to contact" and therefore not allowing the public to judge the "overall effectiveness of the programme".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the coronavirus pandemic would have been "one heck of a lot worse" without the test and trace system.

Mr Shapps said: "It certainly hasn't been cheap fighting coronavirus but it has absolutely been necessary.
"9.1 million people have been contacted by Test and Trace. These are people who otherwise would be wandering round often unaware that they had coronavirus and spreading it around further."

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