As outsourcer is accused of bagging £37bn from controversial scheme to tackle Covid, Serco slams false Labour claims over Test & Trace
- Jeremy Corbyn and leading Labour MPs wrongly suggested it had bagged £37billion from the scheme
- The outsourcing group has faced criticism over the controversial programme
- The firm said it had been awarded contracts for Test and Trace worth £350m overall and that its role in the scheme is ‘small’
Serco has slammed ‘misleading’ claims about its role in the NHS’s Test and Trace programme after Jeremy Corbyn and leading Labour MPs wrongly suggested it had bagged £37billion from the scheme.
The outsourcing group has faced criticism over the controversial programme – seen as a crucial tool to tackle the Covid-19 crisis – which took months to become effective after launching in May.
But yesterday Serco said it needed to ‘set the record straight’ following a series of false claims by Labour politicians. The firm said it had been awarded contracts for Test and Trace worth £350m overall and that its role in the scheme is ‘small’.
However, several leading Labour politicians have continued to claim that the scheme is ‘Serco-led’ or that the company received £37bn for its services – statements that independent charity Full Fact this week said were demonstrably false.
Serco made total revenues of £3.9billion in 2020, according to its annual results. Full Fact singled out frontbencher Rachel Reeves and former leader Corbyn (pictured) for criticism, saying they had both made ‘misleading’ statements. A Serco spokesman said: ‘We are one of five companies managing testing centres and we are one of the two prime contractors providing call handlers to support medical contact tracers from NHS Professionals. We are not involved in many other aspects of the system and the Department for Health and Social Care spend less than 3 per cent of the Test and Trace budget with Serco.’
Full Fact pointed to a press release issued by Labour on Wednesday, in which Reeves – who is Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – savaged the ‘outsourced, Serco-led Test and Trace system’.
And Corbyn, who sits as an independent MP, told Parliament on Monday: ‘Surely to goodness, if £37billion can be found to pay Serco for a failed track and trace system, the money must be available to pay NHS staff properly.’
The false claim was repeated by the former Labour leader in a tweet as well, which was shared by thousands of other users and remains online.
But Full Fact said: ‘Since its launch in May 2020, the NHS Test and Trace scheme has been repeatedly described in misleading ways. Despite our efforts to point this out, a number of politicians and public figures have continued to make incorrect claims about the system.’
It pointed to official figures showing that by the end of October Serco had actually been awarded contracts worth just £277m, while at that point total spending on Test and Trace was just £4billion. Full Fact said the scheme’s total budget for two years is £37billion – but that ‘the vast majority is spent on testing not tracing and does not go to Serco’. Labour backbenchers including Debbie Abrahams and Kim Johnson have repeated the false claims, according to records of Parliamentary debates on Hansard. Full Fact said another claim by the Labour-backing Communication Workers Union had been ‘even further from the truth than Mr Corbyn’s statement’.
Dave Ward, the union’s boss, claimed £37billion had been spent on the Test and Trace app, saying the costs were estimated to be in the ‘tens of millions, rather than billions of pounds’. Serco stressed it also has no involvement in the app or any computer systems related to the scheme.