Tory benefactor’s company funded Sunak’s one-way helicopter journey to Leeds, worth £16,000.

Journey was funded by The Phoenix Partnership, which has secured £135m worth of contracts from the NHS and government.

Rishi Sunak opted for a £16,000 one-way trip to Leeds on a helicopter provided by a company owned by Frank Hester, a major Tory donor, bringing the total cost of the prime minister’s donor-funded air travel to over £100,000 this year.

The prime minister once again demonstrated his preference for short-distance air travel by taking a helicopter from Battersea to Leeds Bradford airport last month. This journey typically takes about 90 minutes. In comparison, the fastest train ride from London to Leeds takes approximately 2 hours and 13 minutes, costing around £60 during off-peak hours.

Sunak attributed the expenses of this trip to The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), a group that has received over £135m in NHS and government contracts for supplying IT since April 2020.

The Labour Party criticized Sunak for taking his fourth helicopter ride, all funded by wealthy Conservative party donors, who have been paying substantial amounts to enable the prime minister to avoid public transportation or lengthy car journeys. His frequent use of private air travel has also raised concerns about his commitment to addressing the climate crisis.

Hester, as the sole owner of the company, made a £5m donation to the Conservatives earlier this year, marking it as one of the largest donations by a living donor. TPP has previously claimed to be politically neutral.

Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, commented: “We cannot ascertain Mr. Hester’s motivations behind these generous donations to Mr. Sunak and his government, along with the provision of a helicopter ride. However, it is undeniable that he has amassed a considerable fortune from government contracts.”

Sunak has faced ongoing criticism for choosing flights and helicopters for short-distance journeys, such as an RAF helicopter ride from London to Dover, despite the train journey taking just over an hour.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, remarked: “Once again, we see the prime minister relying on a Tory donor to contribute thousands of pounds for a luxury helicopter, simply to avoid spending two hours on a train with the general public. This has become a frequent occurrence, with four different donors funding helicopters this year, in addition to the two he regularly uses at taxpayer expense. If only he dedicated as much time to addressing the country’s cost of living as he does to his own flight options, we would all be far better off.”

During his visit, which took place in the same constituency as TPP’s main office, Sunak paid a visit to a jewelry maker. He later faced ridicule on social media for using a hammer sideways, despite being instructed to do so.

TPP supplies software to approximately 2,700 GP surgeries in England, along with support services that enable the electronic storage of medical records for patients.

Downing Street and TPP have been contacted for comments.

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