AT the height of the pandemic, it was inevitable that some Government money would be wasted as the country coped with a completely novel situation. In fact, we would want the Government to shoot over the bar, to be trying some promising-looking schemes that turn out not to work in the fullness of time, in its bid to save lives and suppress the virus.

But, however you look at it, spending £37bn on the NHS Test and Trace system, which is 20 per cent of the NHS’ budget, is extraordinary, especially as the system has been spectacularly ineffective. It did not prevent lockdowns two nor three, the results of 86 per cent of the 691m lateral flow tests are unknown – and, most extraordinary of all, the system has failed to reduce its reliance on external consultants paid an average of £1,100-a-day.

Some are on £6,600-a-day.

Compare that to the leaked rise in the living wage, to be announced today, which will give a full time worker an extra £1,000-a-year.

Compare that £37bn to the £6.9bn (only £1.5bn of which is genuinely new) which will be announced today for transport spending.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will, rightly, say today that the finances are tight and he is being as generous as he can in his Budget. How much more generous could he have been if someone in Government had kept Test and Trace on track?