The pitiful school ‘catch-up’ funding reveals the Tories are only ‘moving left’ on spending where it’s electorally convenient
Boris Johnson’s government has made some controversial spending decisions since March 2020, such as £37bn on a malfunctioning test-and-trace system, or the £3.7bn of Covid-related contracts flagged by Transparency International as potentially tainted by corruption. The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has destroyed any veneer of fiscal restraint, with the cost of the furlough scheme alone approaching £70bn.
Some of these decisions were rash, others were justifiable given the emergency at hand. But none have been as conspicuously destructive as the decision to deliver just a fraction of the “catch-up” funding for schools recommended by the government’s own “education recovery tsar”. Only £1.5bn was offered, or one-tenth of what Sir Kevan Collins had recommended before he resigned in protest shortly after the announcement in early June. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who found so few opportunities to say “no” over the past 15 months, has finally rediscovered his inner Margaret Thatcher.