The Labour Party has unveiled plans to establish an anti-corruption commission tasked with recouping billions of pounds lost due to fraud and waste during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves announced this initiative during her speech at the Labour Party conference. According to the party, COVID fraud has cost taxpayers £7.2 billion.
The proposed commissioner would collaborate with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Serious Fraud Office, and the National Crime Agency to investigate and recover funds lost to fraud. Rachel Reeves emphasised that only 2% of fraudulent COVID grants, all signed by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, have been reclaimed, and she vowed to claw back every penny of taxpayers’ money.
In addition to being the anti-corruption commissioner, Ms. Reeves promised a review of sentencing for offences related to fraud against public services.
On a different front, the Labour Party’s leadership faces a clash with Unite, one of its largest financial backers. Unite is advocating for the nationalisation of critical infrastructure, starting with privatised electricity and gas networks. Delegates will vote on this policy, which is opposed by Rachel Reeves and Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, during the conference.
Rachel Reeves also pledged to streamline the planning process for vital infrastructure projects if Labour gains power. She criticised the current planning system as “antiquated” and emphasised the need to consider economic growth and environmental sustainability. Reeves argued that her proposed changes are crucial to reviving the sluggish economy.
Her infrastructure proposals include updating national policy statements, detailing project requirements within the first six months of Labour taking office, and fast-tracking planning applications for battery factories, laboratories, and 5G infrastructure. Labour plans to appoint 300 new planning officers and provide incentives like cheaper energy bills to encourage local communities to support clean energy projects.
This policy proposal received support from business organisations like the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, which believe that long-term investment in infrastructure is essential for economic growth and development.