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Latest 06 November 2023

Tory donor’s company snags £546,000 PPE storage contracts

Commission Air / Alamy Stock Photo

The boss of Wernick Buildings Limited has given the Tories over £71,000.
by Max Colbert

A firm owned by a Tory donor has bagged three contracts worth £546,000 to store unused PPE, Good Law Project can reveal.

The Department of Health and Social Care asked Wernick Buildings Limited to supply PPE container rentals between April 2021 and March 2023.

The firm is controlled by David Wernick, who has given more than £71,000 to the Tories either through his companies or in a personal capacity between 2001 and 2021. More than half this amount – £42,000 – has been donated since 2019.

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Wernick also previously sat as a Tory councillor, for a time chairing the Conservative Association in Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden’s Hertsmere constituency. According to the company, he resigned from the post a year ago and is no longer a party member.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Wernick Buildings Limited bagged a contract worth a staggering £18.6m to supply site infrastructure, maintenance and servicing for Covid testing sites around England and Wales – a contract that came just weeks after a donation of £10,000.

The company also took £3.17m from the Home Office in 2021, to build portable cabins at Yarl’s Wood for a site to house 187 asylum seekers branded a “prison-style” camp by campaigners. The plans were dropped just two months after the work began, with the department accused of “reckless spending” on accommodation MPs had always warned would have been “completely inappropriate”.

Good Law Project can now reveal details of two six-month contracts to supply 150 containers for PPE storage, beginning in April 2021, with a third contract running from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Curiously, the number of 20ft containers rented from Wernick is redacted in the final contract, though the amount is double the value of the previous two.

According to the company, “There is zero linkage between Conservative Party donations and our business activities.”

The contracts were awarded through the Crown Commercial Services Framework, a spokesperson said, “following a competitive tender process which took place well before anyone had heard of Covid. The contracts themselves were then awarded following a contract specific competitive tender process orchestrated by the Crown Commercial Services.”

The marked increase in Wernick Building’s turnover from 2020 to 2021 – £31.6m to £53.9m – was typical for the industry, the spokesperson continued.

“If you look at the accounts of any company in our industry, they will show strong performance in 2021 as there was excess demand for modular and portable buildings over this period”. The jump in profit could also be explained by investments “to propel growth,” including “company acquisitions, hire fleet investment for organic growth, and improvements to our business infrastructure.”

Wernick Buildings made a pre-tax profit of £2m for the year ending December 2022.

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