Labour got much of the lobby exercised last week with its latest wheeze: mysteriously rebranding its Twitter account as ‘the GPC files’ and sending out a link to ‘theGPCfiles’ to launch 7 a.m Monday morning. Sadly, for fans of the Global Powerlifting Committee eagerly expecting a string of revelations, the website in question focuses on government procurement cards. These allow purchases to be made directly against departmental budgets without going through regular invoicing procedures.
Dozens of parliamentary questions and Freedom of Information requests have been tabled by Labour in recent months to try to find out what this money has been spent on. The website itself looks like an attempt to copy Sky and Tortoise’s recent ‘Westminster Files’ project by increasing the transparency around information which Whitehall makes it difficult to obtain. And while the ‘GPC files’ don’t have the same punch as the expenses scandal, Mr S has nevertheless had an enjoyable morning trawling through the details online.
Below are six of the more embarrassing revelations from Labour’s new project…
Spending controls were relaxed during the pandemic, with holders of GPCs now able to spend £20,000 a transaction and £100,000 a month. Total spending is now up by 71 per cent on 2010, with 14 departments spending a total of at least £145.5 million throughout 2021 compared to £84.9 million in 2010/11. Worst offenders? The Ministry of Justice, up from £36.9 million to £84.9 million, and the Foreign Office, whose spending was nearly four times higher than ten years previously.
Truss and Sunak’s ministries in the firing line
The pair of Prime Ministers were both serving in departmental briefs during the period covered by the files. Sunak was at the Treasury from February 2020 until July 2022; Truss was at the Foreign Office from September 2021 until September 2022. Under Sunak, the Treasury spent £3,393 on 13 fine art photographs from the Tate Gallery and, more damningly, they still haven’t published a single month of GPC data for the calendar year of 2022.