The Tories spent £100k of public cash on a cover-up of their most brutal and illegal policy

Tracy Keeling

The Conservatives’ illegal workfare policy has cost the taxpayer an absolute mint. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that the government spent £100k of public money on trying to keep the list of employers involved in the programme secret.

The government is not short of cash, it seems, when it needs to defend the indefensible.

Forced labour backers revealed

The government sold its workfare programme as a way to get unemployed people back into work. It forced claimants enrolled in the programme to work at firms in exchange for their benefits. The Court of Appeal ruled the scheme illegal in 2013.

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A list of the institutions that profited from the policy was released in July. It revealed that 545 charities, companies and government institutions had participated in the scheme.

Campaigner Frank Zola was behind the legal challenge that led to the release of those company names. Yet the government spent four years battling against it. And in that fight, the government used taxpayer cash to pay for its own legal fees and those of the Information Commissioner watchdog (ICO). It was the ICO which was challenging the government to release its secret list. The ICO is a government-funded institution.

Conservative government urged to show us OUR wasted money

Numerous FOI requests urged the government to release the amount of money spent on the debacle. The Mirror was responsible for sending an FOI request itself. And following the release of the figures, it has detailed exactly how much WE paid for the government’s doggedness.

The Mirror reports that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spent £92,250 on lawyers and court fees itself. The government also paid £7,931 in the costs accrued by the ICO. Furthermore, the ICO spent £701.15 on staff attending a Court of Appeal hearing during the charade.

So in total, the government spent £100,181.01 of taxpayers’ money on trying to protect the organisations that were profiteering from forced free labour.

Priorities, priorities

Yet the government could have spent that money on a number of other ‘priorities’. £100k could have paid for between around 12,800 hours and 2,000 hours of nursing care, depending on what pay scale that nurse was on. Alternatively, it would have paid for between approximately 11,000 hours and 6,500 hours of support for students by teaching assistants.

But the government thought our money best spent defending its own brutal policy and the companies that benefited from it. So although the government scrapped the scheme in late 2015, its toxic legacy lives on.

And it has raided the public purse for a pretty penny indeed.

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