The Tories have just lost £1bn of charity money down the back of the sofa

Theresa May Budget Tax
Steve Topple

The Conservative government “cannot yet confirm” whether nearly £1bn of money it was supposed to have given to charities has been “spent as intended”. And even worse, £200m of funding, which former prime minister David Cameron promised would go to young people, has seemingly been lost altogether.

Promises, promises

In the wake of the Libor rate rigging scandal, then chancellor George Osborne promised in 2012 that the £973m the banks were fined would “go to the benefit of the public”. And Cameron went further in 2015, saying the money from a specific £227m fine on Deutsche Bank would be used to create 50,000 apprenticeships. He said at the time:

We’re going to take the fines from the banks who tried to rig markets – and we’re going to use it to train young people and get them off the dole and into work.

But now, the National Audit Office (NAO), which is responsible for checking how the government spends public money, has investigated the £973m fund. And it found a catalogue of errors, mismanagement and lax behaviour by the Tories.

Dodgy dealings

The NAO found that:

  • The government is “is unable to demonstrate” if it actually spent £200m on 50,000 apprenticeships.
  • It gave £196m to groups, without any “terms and conditions” on how they should spend it.
  • The government “cannot yet confirm that charities spent all grants as intended”.
  • It has not evaluated whether the money actually benefitted the public, or not.
  • Some of the money went directly into an internal Ministry of Defence project.

Missing millions

The office said, specifically in relation to the apprenticeships, that:

although the money was used to fund apprenticeships in general, the government did not report any increase in its already announced 3 million target. The Department for Education, now responsible for apprenticeships, was not directed to use the £200 million to pursue a specific policy to deliver apprenticeships for unemployed 22-24 year olds and cannot demonstrate whether 50,000 new apprenticeships for this group have been provided.

But what is most revealing is just which charities the government gave £973m to.

The NAO said that:

The majority of this money has gone towards Armed Forces and Emergency Services charities. The Treasury and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have distributed £592 million of the fund to a range of different causes.

Tories: cutting to the bone

Meanwhile, since 2010, the Tories have:

  • Cut defence spending to 5% of all public spending.
  • Left around 7,000 ex-military personnel homeless in the UK.
  • Presided over more service personnel taking their own lives than actually dying in battle.

And, also since 2010:

  • The NHS has seen a real terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient.
  • The government has cut the number of people getting social care by 26%. And it has cut the equivalent of almost £50m from children’s mental health services.
  • 20,000 police officers have lost their jobs and £2.3bn has been cut from police budgets.
  • 10,000 firefighters have lost their jobs and budgets have been cut by a third.

As sneaky as sneaky can be

So, essentially, the government has used the £973m from the bank’s fines to paper over the cracks created by their austerity, via charities. And as The Canary reported only this week, the blowback from austerity is beginning to severely show, with the police dealing with more cases of mental health issues than ever before. We knew that Cameron couldn’t be trusted with the public purse. And now we know that the Tories will use it to try and cover their disastrous tracks, too.

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