Socialist Worker

£563,000 to consultants for six weeks work on ‘narrative’

Issue No. 2719

Dido Harding and Boris Johnson at a press conference

Dido Harding and Boris Johnson at a press conference (Pic: Flickr/Number 10)


Consultants McKinsey was paid more than half a million pounds by the British government for “six weeks of work” to decide the “vision, purpose and narrative” of a new public health authority in England.

A recently published contract shows that McKinsey was hired by the Department of Health and Social Care in May.

Its remit was to prepare a report on the options for a new body that would run the English test and trace coronavirus programme.

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The consultancy firm was hired for £563,400 to submit a document that outlined the “mission and vision” of a proposed new organisation by the end of June.

The company worked with three members of the government’s coronavirus response team, including Dido Harding, who will lead the new agency. Harding is herself a former McKinsey consultant.

The contract was published before an announcement this week that Harding, the head of England’s test and trace programme, had been appointed to run the new National Institute for Health Protection.

Harding worked at McKinsey for seven years until 1995 before taking on executive roles at companies including Thomas Cook and Tesco.

A Conservative peer, she was chief executive of telecoms group TalkTalk from 2010 until 2017.

She stepped down in the wake of anger about a damaging cyber attack on the company.

McKinsey said, “Our UK public sector work is contracted by government officials under existing public procurement rules.”


Nigel Wright who blackmailed Tesco by contaminating baby food with shards of metal is a former Conservative councillor and Ukip parliamentary candidate. He is now facing up to 14 years in jail for the plot. Wright represented Freshney ward on North East Lincolnshire Council in 2003. He was the youngest-ever chair of the Great Grimsby Conservative Association.


Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning to ditch the “Facebook tax” on big tech companies after concluding that it is “more trouble than it is worth”.

The Digital Services Tax, which came into effect last April, is likely to be axed.

Sunak apparently concluded that the £500 million a year it is expected to raise isn’t worth the downside of upsetting US president Donald Trump in trade talks.


Doctors forced to stay after permit delay

Some NHS doctors who have come to Britain from other countries have been unable to leave, threatened with eviction and had family members sacked.

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This is because of delays in issuing new residence permits they were promised at the height of the pandemic.

The issue affects non-EU nationals—many who have spent months battling Covid-19.

The Home Office pledged on 31 March that it would automatically grant a year’s extension to the visas of any NHS staff whose permission to stay expired before 1 October.

The offer also covered the visas of their dependents.

Hospitals asked those affected to hand over their and their families’ Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) ahead of their visa renewal date.

But, according to the Financial Times, months later they were still awaiting for some or all of the replacements.


Bankrupt bosses cash in on the crash

Companies across the US are awarding top executives multimillion-dollar “retention” bonuses shortly before declaring bankruptcy.

The practice has become commonplace among companies failing during the pandemic.

The list includes high profile collapses such as JC Penney, Hertz and Neiman Marcus.

Often, retention payments are granted weeks—or even days—before groups lay off workers.

Brad Holly, Whiting Petroleum’s chief executive, received

$6.4 million—£5 million—at the end of March under a new compensation plan approved by the board of directors, which he chairs.

This was less than a week before the company filed for bankruptcy.

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Holly will step down as chief executive soon and then receive $2.53 million—£1.9 million—in severance pay.


Illegal evictions on the rise

New figures by Safer Renting reveals harassment and illegal evictions have almost tripled in parts of London’s shadow rental market since the lockdown was imposed on 23 March.

This is despite emergency legislation banning landlords from evicting tenants.

“Criminal landlords are increasingly forcing tenants, who have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut during lockdown, out of their homes,” says Roz Spencer, director of Safer Renting. “We regularly see tenants threatened or coming home to find the locks changed and belongings dumped on the street.”

Data from Citizens Advice show a 95 percent increase nationally in people asking for help with illegal evictions between the end of March and end of July, compared with the same period last year.

They were approached by 1,340 people in 2020, compared with 687 in 2019.


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Rape victim denied benefit

A woman who was raped has been refused Universal Credit for her third child because she was sexually attacked in the “wrong” order.

She has been hit by the two-child limit on benefits—even though there is an exemption for children born of rape.

Regulations ban any extra Universal Credit for “third or subsequent” children born after April 2017. She had a child in 2010 after being raped.

She later had two more children, with her most recent child born last year.

In December her Universal Credit was increased by £463 over two months for the third child, under an exemption for children born to “rape, abuse or coercive control”

But Jobcentre officials then U-turned, stopped new payments and began clawing the money back—because the offence was a decade ago.


The things they say ...

‘I’ve had members of my association claiming Universal Credit and they’re shocked by how low it is’

Tory MP talks to the Economist

‘It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel’

Donald Trump’s older sister Maryanne Trump Barry

‘I’m not a big fan of sharks’

Donald Trump gets lost in a speech while explaining why he won’t give money to shark sanctuaries

‘He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks’

Stormy Daniels in 2018. Trump denied it. She was paid£99,288 to keep her affair with Trump quiet during the last US election

‘Keir’s got this exactly right.

He’s approached the government in a constructive way’

Labour MP John McDonnell on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer


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