The so-called Festival of Brexit – actually called UNBOXED, for reasons unknown – has finished and the National Audit Office (NAO) has published its report into the nine-month, £120 million horlicks. It cannot conceal the scale of the absurdities the taxpayer stumped up for. In this post-referendum festival, planned as a celebration of British creativity along the lines of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain 1951, approved projects included:
The report goes on to conclude that the festival failed to meet its audience engagement targets, despite all the cash: “In aggregate, the target for audience engagement was 9.2 million people under the base case.” The project was overseen by DCMS via a Programme Board with reps from the Treasury, Cabinet Office and DCMS staff.
A definitive sketch of the festival was written by Stuart McGurk for Politics Home (now 404’d). He reported that Oliver Dowden was the minister who first folded when organisers demanded that no mention of Brexit be allowed anywhere, for anything. McGurk’s account of the subsequent hustles, muddles and misconceptions causes jaws to fall. In his conclusion, he recalls watching footage of Tour de Moon’s finale musical act. It was, he says, “as perfect, in my mind, an artistic response to our current times as one could imagine. It is four people, in front of four microphones, simply screaming at the top of their lungs.
“ARGGGGHHGHHHHHHHHHH!” comes the sound from her MacBook Air as it begins to vibrate. “ARGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!” it continues.
British creativity – the envy of the world.
The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates the cost of the pandemic has risen to a stupendous £372 billion, up £100 billion since its last report in January. £172 billion has already been spent and £26 billion worth of guaranteed loans are expected to be written off when businesses collapse after the financial support is withdrawn. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Schemes alone have cost £151 billion. The health and social care sector needed £97 billion. Programmes such as the Self Employment Support Scheme came to £55 billion and £65 billion will be spent on support for other public services and emergency responses.
The £372 billion cost of covid to the taxpayer amounts to spending of over £5,000 per head of population. Spending that will inevitably translate into higher taxes…
Ed Davey is expected to launch his bid for the LibDem leadership imminently, so it is good timing for the National Audit Office to release their report into his Hinkley Point deal today. Sir Edward was the Energy Secretary pushed though the £18 billion deal and insisted it was good value. The National Audit Office disagrees, this morning calling Hinkley Point “a risky and expensive project” that is “not value for money“. They say the case for the plant is “marginal“. As damning language as it gets…
Even more embarrassingly for Sir Edward, his own party opposes Hinkley Point. LibDem energy spokesman Lynne Featherstone says:
“Failing to call a stop to Hinkley will prove a costly mistake. The opportunity to pull the plug on Hinkley has been missed, and we will all pay for it from our pockets.”
The final humiliation for Davey. Well, depending on how his leadership bid goes…