Could a Mansion Tax make our housing markets even more dysfunctional?
Jul 2014 15

In today’s Daily Telegraph Jeremy Warner makes two very interesting points on the UK’s housing market dysfunctions and some commentators’ hopes that a Mansion Tax will do anything to fix them:

Britain already has the highest property taxes in the OECD (see chart), mostly in the form of council tax. Some claim a higher purpose to property taxes than merely soaking the supposed rich – that of putting a lid on property prices. If that’s the hope, then it is equally misplaced, for such taxes plainly haven’t done much good so far.

As for so-called “granny” clauses, allowing the elderly to roll up their liability until death, this hardly solves the problem. The eventual fire sale of baby boomer homes would only further undermine house prices down the line.

The answer to a dysfunctional housing market isn’t a Mansion Tax. It’s meaningful, effective planning reform. As Mr Warner rightly says:

There is only one proper solution to this problem – a sustained increase in supply. The tinkering we’ve seen to date with the planning laws is not going to bring it about.

Back in February 2013, our then Chief Executive Matthew Sinclair wrote for Spectator Coffee House about why a Mansion Tax is such a bad idea. That case is every bit as valid today.

Our War on Waste roadshow closes after 9 days, 29 stops, and over 1,300 miles
Jul 2014 15

We started out 11 days ago, heading north from London, stopping off in Harlow, Ipswich, and Peterborough on our first day, and continuing up through Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull, York, Yarm near Stockton and Newcastle – all in just three days!

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We crossed the Pennines and were met by activists in Carlisle, Lancaster, finishing the day in Liverpool where we found an incredibly positive reaction. We were up early again for another busy day, stopping in Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, before ending the day with a late stop in Birmingham having driven nearly the entire length of the M6.

We continued south through the potteries, stopping outside the £72 million disused space that is The Public in West Bromwich before campaigning in Dudley’s bustling market and then heading off to picket the Prime Minister’s constituency.

On Friday we headed West to Swansea before meeting Wales Co-ordinator Lee Canning in Cardiff and South West Co-ordinator Tim Newark in Bristol, finishing the day in beautiful Bath. The weekend took us to Southampton, Brighton, and Crawley.

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There were plenty of tired faces around the office on Monday but what a way to see so many great places and meet so many wonderful people. We met some keen new activists and heard tales of wasteful spending from up and down the country. We’re all very grateful to all those who helped make this happen and I would like to say thank you to all who took part.

The War on Waste is long term campaign so do get in touch if you’d like to get involved – email me at
[email protected]
for details. If you haven’t signed up yet, just pop your name, postcode and email in the box at the top right of this page, and you can visit and like us on Facebook here and follow us on Twitter here.

Southampton (96)

Midlands the next stop for the War on Waste roadshow
Jul 2014 09

The War on Waste roadshow made its way into the Midlands today with stopovers in Manchester, Stoke-on Trent, Stafford and finally Birmingham.

On a blustery day outside Manchester Town Hall, City Council employees were appalled to discover that hundreds of their colleagues had been handed iPads costing taxpayers almost £200,000, and that the Council had wasted £16,000 on software to monitor what people were saying about them on Twitter. There are plenty of alternatives available – such as the rather cheaper (i.e., free) option of doing it yourself.

Our presence was less well received by two Council employees, the first of whom tried to tell us we needed the permission before setting up “infrastructure” (a plywood table with tablecloth and 2 flags) outside the Town Hall. She eventually conceded that there was no such requirement but said she would need to report the incident to a town hall bureaucrat.

The second employee, apparently a Unison member, was initially a little agitated with our stall, but was delighted to hear that we are strongly against using taxpayers’ money to subsidise theatre and opera. Wasting money in this fashion isn’t a left vs right issue – it’s just common sense.

Then on to Stoke, where residents were horrified to learn that overweight people in the area had been receiving motivational text messages from the Council advising them to “use the stairs” and to “try to eat smaller portions”. This patronising farce cost taxpayers £10,000.

After a brief stop in Stafford, the roadshow rolled on to Birmingham where as we speak TPA staff and volunteers are telling people about the £319,000 Birmingham City Council has used for jet-setting trips to the likes of China, Jamaica, Brazil and Bahrain.

Tomorrow we head to a true shrine of wasteful spending -The Public in West Bromwich – before heading to Chipping Norton to remind the Prime Minister that he desperately needs to wage a War on Waste across the country.

War on Waste visits Nottingham, Sheffield and Doncaster
Jul 2014 06

The War on Waste moved on this afternoon, taking in the centre of Nottingham as well as the constituency offices of both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

The team set up shop outside Nottingham Council House on Old Market Square, joined by the ever-inquisitive cameras of BBC East Midlands. A number of supporters joined us, handing out leaflets and spreading the word. The main issue for most taxpayers was the more than £4,000 spent on the rental of a Christmas tree. No-one would begrudge anybody a bit of festive cheer in the office, but quite how it managed to cost as much as a luxury cruise to the Caribbean is beyond us.

From there it was on to two further stops – Sheffield Hallam, and Doncaster North. The Deputy Prime Minister has had a mixed record when it comes to waste, supporting the work of the Cabinet Office to crack down on procurement mistakes but then handing out millions on a variety of headline-grabbing policies. And with a general election just 10 months away, taxpayers will be hoping that Ed Miliband and the Labour Party are as committed to cutting out waste in the public sector as we are.

It’s onwards and upwards tomorrow – to Hull and York, and then on to Stockton-on-Tees and finishing up in Newcastle. You can find the exact timings, and the plan for the next few days, here.

War on Waste roadshow comes to Leicester
Jul 2014 06

This morning the War on Waste roadshow rolled up at the High Street at Leicester. We pitched up at the end near the site where the council has recently knocked down a car-park in order to build a new town square. Here we drew attention to unnecessary spending such as the £6,000 given to minor celebrities to appear at council events and were joined by a BBC camera crew.

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Bravely, the Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, even stopped by to defend big spending with taxpayers’ money. He didn’t stay to discuss matters though, as he rushed said he was going to church, perhaps to confession. A small problem with our minibus didn’t set us back, and we received a good reaction with people coming to tell us about a variety of local issues.

We’re now on our way to Nottingham where we’ll be campaigning this asfternoon. Find out where else we’re visiting by clicking here

War on Waste roadshow stops at Ipswich and Peterborough
Jul 2014 06

Following yesterday morning’s visit to Harlow, the War on Waste roadshow called in at Ipswich and Peterborough as Saturday moved along. In Ipswich we pitched up outside the council offices to draw attention to unnecessary spending such as Suffolk Council’s chief executive splashing out £1,500 for a photograph portfolio. We received a great reaction, running out of leaflets swiftly in the weekend rush on the high street. One 17 year old boy working on a greengrocer’s stall in the local market was surprised to find that, despite only working a Saturday job and therefore not paying income tax, he was a taxpayer as he paid fuel duty and road tax.

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We then made our way to Peterborough where we set up a stand in the market square between the beautiful cathedral and the Guildhall.

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This morning we’ll be visiting Leicester and Nottingham. Find out where else we’re visiting by clicking here

First stop Harlow on the War on Waste roadshow
Jul 2014 05

Our War on Waste roadshow made its first stop at Harlow earlier today. We met up with local supporters in the town centre to tell people how the Government and Harlow and Essex councils are wasting money. Money that should be left in local people’s pockets by cutting Council Tax,. Examples include spending £20,000 on a glossy magazine to boast about themselves. We were joined by local MP Rob Halfon along with journalists from the Harlow Star and the Essex Chronicle.

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Next stop Ipswich! Find out where else we’re visiting by clicking here

Exposing the quangocracy in Parliament
Jun 2014 17

Earlier today, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) held its second evidence session on the ‘Accountability of Quangos and Public Bodies’. Our Chief Executive Jonathan Isaby gave evidence as a witness. Jonathan attacked the waste of several taxpayer-funded bodies performing similar roles. He later questioned why so many taxpayer-funded bodies, such as the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), were not listed as quangos, despite receiving taxpayers’ money.

As was highlighted during the session, the issues of accountability and value for taxpayers’ money are clearly linked. In the case of IPSA, a body created to deal with MPs’ pay and expenses in the wake of the expenses scandal, a lack of accountability has seen its Chief Executive pocket a salary of £120,000. This farce would be funny if it weren’t funded entirely by hard-working taxpayers.

This situation is recreated throughout the quangocracy. In January we reported the explosion in the number of six-figure salaries taken home by quango chiefs and mandarins in taxpayer-funded bodies with not always obvious aims. Allowing this gravy train to carry on unaccounted for would be a disgrace. Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is being spent – especially when it is being wasted.

There is of course no one-size-fits-all solution to the governance question. Some matters need to be held at arm’s length from government. But that doesn’t mean it has to be hidden away from public scrutiny. Officials should never be given the opportunity to lavish taxpayers’ money on themselves.

There is no balance to be struck on accountability: the public deserves to know how its money is spent. The government must ensure that taxpayer-funded bodies perform their roles efficiently under the watchful eye of public scrutiny. Wasteful reproduction must be scrapped, pay packets must be appropriate for the work performed – and taxpayers must be respected.

Jonathan’s evidence session can be seen here.

Pounding the streets with the TPA Action Team
Jun 2014 13

I was fortunate enough this week to spend a sunny morning outdoors, and doing the best thing one can do outdoors: hitting the pavements to spread awareness of our latest campaign War on Waste. After an obligatory team photo, five of us left TPA HQ for South West London in our brand-new T-shirts, with rather nice co-ordinating TPA-branded hemp bags to carry our mounds of leaflets. Our first campaigning stop turned out to be St. James’ tube station. In the queue to top up my Oyster I stood behind an American family whose little daughter appeared to be called Reagan. It occurred to me that parents who name their child after a President would be very susceptible to the TPA’s messages of reducing government waste and taxes. After chatting for a few moments about how they were from Chicago (like Milton Friedman, no less!) I pressed a leaflet upon them, leaving them for our next stop with good luck wishes in our ears.

We got out at Gloucester Rd. and began to pound the streets. The public generally reacted well to the campaign, thinking that cutting government waste is a common sense policy which politicians across the spectrum should aim for. Every taxpayer, will after all, benefit from a reduction in taxes if less government money is spent on llamas and fig trees.

Walking through a leafy square of white stucco houses, a voice called down from scaffolding on a house above us. Looking up it was a builder working on the external plasterwork, cheering us on. How novel, I thought, to be shouted at by a builder about taxes.

After a full morning of trekking around, chatting to people and dropping leaflets in the hot sunshine, we all flopped for lunch together, feeling thirsty, stronger for carrying all those leaflets, and cheered by the knowledge that the TPA’s mission is well thought of by so many people.

“Embarrassingly weak” Recall Bill overshadows Queen’s Speech, says TaxPayers’ Alliance
Jun 2014 04

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

Some positive measures have been overshadowed by an embarrassingly weak Recall Bill. This stitch-up will do nothing to restore the trust of voters in politics. It will centralise more power in Westminster, rather than handing it to voters.

Other measures will make local government and quangos more accountable, and save taxpayers’ money. But the fudge on recall means that the Coalition has missed a tremendous opportunity to leave British democracy a true legacy.

On specific measures of the speech, he added:

On new powers for voters to recall MPs:

True right of recall was included in the Coalition Agreement, and the proposed legislation is nothing more than a weak imitation. In a democracy, voters should have the final say, not a committee of MPs. That politicians are scared of ‘kangaroo courts’ only underlines how detached they are from the concerns of ordinary people.

On the crackdown on senior public sector officials returning to other well-paid public sector jobs:

Shutting down the public sector merry-go-round is fantastic news for taxpayers. For too long, ordinary people have been footing the bill for huge redundancy payouts, only to see the employees in question back in similar jobs just weeks later.

 

Supporters’ Action Day in Swansea
May 2014 27

Supporters of the TPA were out in Swansea last weekend, collecting signatures against the Council’s move to increase Council Tax by 5 per cent. Swansea is Wales second largest city, with a growing student population and an evermore urban feel. On Saturday supporters met with local shoppers, all of whom were concerned about the severe Council Tax increases. Many of them questioned why the increase is so high, particularly as taxpayers across the Bristol channel in Devon are having their Council Tax frozen.

Our petition gained nearly 200 signatures in just over an hour. Supporters and signatories were all encouraged to hold their local representatives to account for their failure to protect taxpayers from some of the most severe increases in household bills.

It is time that local authorities cut out wasteful spending and ensured that taxpayers are getting a fair deal. The War on Waste will continue in Wales, with the future action days planned.

Comment: New Zealand Centre for Political Research
May 2014 27

Our Policy Analyst Alex Wild has written for the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, outlining the need for welfare reform here in the UK. Read the piece in full here.

Overall we will spend £184.3 billion (NZ$358.7 billion) on social security benefits and a further £28.9 billion (NZ$456.2) billion on tax credits this year.

Saving by the less well-off has been discouraged by poorly-designed means-testing, diminishing personal responsibility and fostering dependency.

These mistakes mean we have much more unemployment than we used to. Despite the remarkable recent performance of the UK jobs market, unemployment at 6.8 per cent is far higher than it was in the 1950s and 1960s when the value of unemployment benefits fluctuated significantly.

Historically, a year or so after benefit levels increased faster than earnings and inflation, unemployment has also increased. The big boosts to the value of benefits in the 1970s and 1980s helped entrench the relatively high unemployment we have today.

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