TONY Blair and his wife reportedly claimed almost £80,000 in taxpayer cash from the Covid furlough scheme – despite being worth £50million.
The former PM, 68, and his wife Cherie, 67, appeared on an updated list of beneficiaries of the taxpayer-funded programme, which was set up in March 2020 to protect jobs during the pandemic.
The names of the couple – rather than any specific business – appeared on the list, which was published by HMRC in December.
A spokesman for the Blairs told the Daily Mail they had claimed £76,000 to cover the wages of staff at Lady Blair’s law firm with the cash paid to them every month the furlough scheme operated.
All businesses and individuals were entitled to payouts from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to cover the wages of furloughed staff – regardless of their financial situation.
The scheme was phased out in September last year after some £69billion of taxpayer cash was spent – the biggest government intervention in the British jobs markets in peacetime.
The Blairs continued making their claims – averaging £3,500 a month – right up until September.
Thousands of businesses have now said they will pay back some of the funds after faring better than expected during the Covid pandemic.
But the Blairs are not thought to have returned any of the cash despite being worth an estimated £50million, the Daily Mail reports.
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker told the newspaper: “Why can’t a law firm work from home? There can be no justification.
“This looks like an attempt to grab as much money as possible from the public purse irrespective of need and it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.”
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron added: “The Blairs are not the only people on the scheme who don’t appear to need it, but have accessed it.
“I think there are a lot of people out there who need to have a long hard look at themselves and ask whether they took advantage of a scheme that they could afford not to use.”
Tory MP Peter Bone said: “Wealthy individuals and companies have handed back money they have received during the pandemic because they felt it was morally wrong. It may be that the Blairs will reflect on that.”
The Blairs’ spokesman said it was wrong to single out a furlough employer which fell into the lowest banded range on the list.
He added: “In relation to the December to September months it was just over £35,000, an average of around £3,500 a month, in respect of three members of staff who were unable to fulfil their usual duties because of Covid restrictions.”
It comes as one million people signed an online petition to get Sir Tony’s knighthood rescinded.
He was appointed by the Queen a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
But the Change.org petition, which hit the 1million landmark yesterday, claims: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the UK and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.
“He was responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilians and servicemen. He should be held accountable for war crimes.
“He is the least deserving of any public honour.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claims Sir Tony deserves it as he “made Britain a better country”.
Sir Tony held office from 1997 to 2007 after winning three landslide elections and dragging Labour out of the political wilderness.
But his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has earned him an army of critics that for many is his lasting legacy.
Shortly after leaving Downing Street, he bought a townhouse in central London now worth around £8.5million.
The couple also paid £4million for a stately home in Buckinghamshire in 2004.