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Whitehall departments write off £600m of taxpayers' cash as 'fruitless spending'

Government departments have written off £600 million of taxpayers' money as "fruitless spending" over the past decade, according to new figures.

The sums include a £103 million loss on Chinook military helicopters which did not meet operational requirements in 2010/11, £89.3 million on compensation to contractors after the Flexible New Deal was scrapped the same year and £27 million in relation to an office move for the Communities Department in 2013/14.

Costs of £24.4 million were incurred for cancelled military flying tuition in 2010/11, while £11.8 million was written off after the closure of a TV channel for teachers in 2012/13 and £10.4 million for an embassy in Syrian capital Damascus which was never built,

But many smaller sums were also classified as "fruitless" because they resulted in nothing being received in return.

They ranged from subscriptions for libraries and magazines which subsequently folded, leases on empty buildings to a £1.7 million payment for unused office furniture. Some £300,000 was lost when Somali jihadist movement Al Shabaab seized five trucks carrying UK-funded aid.

The £600 million total was calculated by the Scottish National Party from Freedom of Information requests and annual departmental accounts.

SNP MSP Colin Beattie, who sits on Holyrood's Public Audit Committee, said "This is an eye-watering amount of waste by Whitehall departments and it's even more concerning when you consider £600 million is just the tip of the iceberg.

"While ordinary families are being hammered by Tory austerity and told to tighten their belts, it's absolutely shameful that the UK Government has been playing fast and loose with hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

"Even worse, it seems as though some departments of this Tory government have something to hide - battening down the hatches and refusing to come clean about their misspending sprees. In the interests of democracy and accountability it's important that they are honest and transparent about frittering away public cash.

"It's one thing for governments to make mistakes, but this reveals a much deeper rooted problem - a systemic culture of waste in Whitehall and an absolute scandal in the UK's public finances. This Tory government has many questions to answer and taxpayers have a right to know their money isn't being squandered."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "This Government saved the taxpayer £3.3 billion during the last financial year by disposing of surplus property and reforming the way we work, building on total savings of £52 billion during the last Parliament.

"By contrast the SNP have wasted almost £1 billion on bungled IT projects and cost overruns since they came to power - and it is Scottish schools, hospitals and public services that are suffering as a result."

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