Merseyside MP blasts Government for overlooking Knowsley firm as billions of ‘useless’ PPE burns

Bill Esterson says businesses such Knowsley-based firm Florence Roby should have got contracts rather than the Government’s ‘Conservative friends’.

A Merseyside MP has said the Government could have saved jobs and the taxpayer ‘millions of pounds’ if they had worked with local British businesses to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central and shadow minster for business and industry, made the remarks this week after claims that the Government is burning up to £45 million worth of unusable PPE every month.

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Analysis from Labour suggests that up to 870 million unusable aprons are being burned each month, which came at a huge cost to the taxpayer when originally purchased.

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson. Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images

Mr Esterson said: “The Government clearly bought millions of pounds worth of useless PPE while refusing to work with reputable British firms such as Florence Roby, whose owners live in my constituency, who had good quality washable gowns ready to go but were given the run-around by the government and no order was ever placed.

“If the Government had taken the time to work with firms such as Florence Roby rather than their Conservative friends they could have supported British business, British jobs and saved the taxpayer millions of pounds.”

What is Liverpool business Florence Roby?

Florence Roby is a family business based in Knowsley which makes PPE.

It had to lose staff after the government refused an offer to supply reusable surgical gowns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The business, which has been making products for over 50 years, also supplies uniforms for the beauty, spa and hotel industries.

Director Jan Roby, managing director Steven Roby and the Florence Roby staff. Photo: Florence Roby

The company offered to supply the gowns which could be reused 100 times when the Government called on UK businesses to supply PPE.

Florence Roby initially got approval to provide gowns to the NHS, but the government ultimately said they did not need their services because lockdown was ending by the time they were given the go ahead.

Florence Roby director, Jan Roby, told LiverpoolWorld: “All we have ever asked for is a level playing field.

“We did not manage to secure any reusable healthcare contracts after the massive contracts were handed out.

“We are still manufacturing in Merseyside which has been a saving grace for production with the spiralling costs incurred since Brexit on importing and exporting, fuel, transport and raw materials.

“We are very grateful to Bill Esterson for supporting a local British company throughout the pandemic.”

The company is currently making new designs for the healthcare market and care homes.

Labour and nurses criticise Government over PPE

Department of Heath and Social Care (DHSC) documents show that in total, the Government lost £8.7 billion in 2020/21 on PPE that was unusable, passed its sell by date, or was overpriced.

Meanwhile, Labour claims the Government is burning up to £45 million worth of unusable PPE bought during the pandemic every month.

Estephanie Dunn, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in the North West, said nurses working in a ‘chronically underfunded health and social care sector’ would find the burning of billions of pounds worth of unusable PPE ‘a terrible betrayal’.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Having too much PPE was preferable to having too little in the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, given this was essential to keep our NHS open and protect as many people as possible.

“Now we are confident we have sufficient PPE to cover any future Covid demands, we are taking decisive action and reduced storage costs by 82 per cent since October 2020.”