'Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash wasted on failing Leamington Covid testing lab' claims investigation

The Government said that it “takes any complaints and allegations of wrongdoing very seriously, and will not hesitate to investigate and take action where appropriate”

Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash have been wasted on the delayed and under-capacity Leamington Covid testing laboratory, it has been reported.

An investigation by The Independent newspaper clams the laboratory, known as the Mega-lab, has been plagued by major testing issues, allegations of cover-ups and is subject to health and safety concerns.

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The probe was assisted by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western who supplied contacts, information and asked Parliamentary questions.

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Leamington - known as the mega-lab

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory – the centrepiece of the Government’s Test and Trace network – formally opened six months late in July last year.

The laboratory in Juno Drive, off Queensway, has never reached more than 20 per cent per of its original intended testing capacity – with doubts remaining over whether it will ever reach full working order.

The newspaper makes multiple serious allegations including suggestions of ‘spiralling costs’.

Sources in the article allege that the site is now ‘under review’ and efforts were made to ‘pull the plug’ on the project.

As we have previously reported, Mr Western has long been investigating the laboratory.

The government had said that the laboratory would be able to process 300,000 tests per day – which was then revised down to 100,000.

But the laboratory is believed to be processing no more than 30,000 per day, insiders suggested.

Mr Western said: “It is such a relief the serious issues with the laboratory have finally come to the surface.

“For months my team and I have been investigating the concerns of the workforce and the community.

“We were made aware of government-awarded contracts overrunning, staff being unable to start and widespread operational challenges - resulting in severe delays to the project.

“Of course, I want the laboratory to be an asset for the Warwick and Leamington community, for it to provide valuable jobs and for the persisting challenges to be overcome.

“But this involves openness, transparency, and willingness to engage with the public, the media and elected officials."

Internal emails Mr Western’s office provided to The Independent last summer revealed 31 lab support technicians, days before they were due to start work, were informed they would be paid for the foreseeable future to remain at home due to delays – which likely cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency said: “We take any complaints and allegations of wrongdoing very seriously, and will not hesitate to investigate and take action where appropriate.

“The Rosalind Franklin lab continues to play a critical role in the pandemic response, having already processed millions of tests to help stop the spread of COVID. Only four per cent of tests have been diverted to other laboratories in the network, which is a safe and routine part of operations.

“There are strict protocols in place to protect all our staff and ensure they have the right training, with rigorous quality assurance in place to maintain the safety and accuracy of our equipment.

“As the public would expect, budgets and spending are tracked through a robust governance process and are reviewed regularly, to ensure the best possible value for the taxpayer.”