THE cavalier recklessness of the Government, the harm Covid is wrecking on homeless children and hopes for a more normal Christmas were the issues debated by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Daily Express

Leo McKinstry said ministers had a duty to spend public money wisely as it came from the public purse.

“In the end, it is the ordinary, hard-working citizens who have to pay the price of fiscal incontinence or extravagant profligacy,” he said. “But sadly, the official response to Covid-19 ignores that truth. In the fallout from the crisis, the concept of value for money appears to have been washed away by a tidal wave of irresponsibility across Whitehall.”

He described the Government’s Covid spending as ‘cavalier recklessness,’ promoting a culture of waste, incompetence and cronyism.

“As the emergency drags on, the British public continues to make huge personal and financial sacrifices, yet at the same time a privileged group of business people, many with close connections to the Government, have done extremely well out of the pandemic,” he said. “During the first wave of the virus, civil servants dished out no less than £17.3billion to private-sector suppliers, of which £10.5billion was awarded without any competition.”

He cited the example of Pestflix, a pest control firm whose £350 million of contracts included the supply of 600,000 masks - which did not meet the standards required for hospital use.

“The Conservative Government in the 1990s was brought down by an image of sleaze and ineptitude,” he said. “ If Boris Johnson’s Cabinet does not get a grip on spending, it could suffer the same fate.

The Guardian

Headteacher Dani Worthington said she had witnessed the housing emergency playing out in schools first hand.

“There was a family at my school where all the siblings had no choice but to share a bed,” she said. “They would come to school exhausted. When families are moved to temporary accommodation miles away from school, sometimes their parents can no longer afford to get them to us, as the fares for public transport are simply too high.”

She said the impact of homelessness on education was a huge problem before Covid and the pandemic was making things worse.

“During the first lockdown, many children didn’t have access to wifi in their temporary accommodation or the equipment they needed to keep up with their lessons,” she said. “The educational gap between children with a secure home and those without is growing as a result of Covid-19 – and some educators fear it may never close. Generations of homeless children are being written off..”

She warned that homeless children and those in bad housing would find their future in tatters unless society acted.

“Many teachers I know are doing what they can to protect the education and wellbeing of the homeless children in their classrooms,” she said. “But to give every child a fair chance of doing well at school, every child needs a safe home. Investment in decent, locally available social housing must be the way forward.”

The Scotsman

The newspaper’s leader column said it was only natural that grandparents would want to spend more on Christmas presents for their grandchildren this year, after few, if any, visits to see them.

“According to a new poll, they plan to spend an average of £104 on each grandchild this year, up by £23 compared to last year,” it said.

“Add that all up together and it reaches the rather staggering sum of £2.4 billion across the UK. But, in the end, Christmas should not really be about presents or money or material wealth.

“Instead, it is about families getting together for a celebration and, if there’s ever a year when we needed one of those, it is the accursed 2020.”

The paper said we should not stress about gifts this Christmas, particularly if people were suffering financially, but ‘just go with’ the terrible Christmas jumper.

Parents were also worried about grandparents spending more than they could afford, it added.

“It’s the laughs and teasing that we remember anyway,” it said.

“Hopefully, we will all be able to celebrate Christmas as usual and do so in a way that is safe.”