Supporters of the Taxpayers’ Alliance were in Cardiff on Saturday campaigning against Plaid Cymru’s proposed tax on fizzy drinks. With our stall set up on ‘The Hayes’ during the annual Cardiff Carnival, we got to meet many local people and visitors shocked to hear about the punitive measures being taken to try to cut obesity in Wales.
With 300 bottles of soft drinks, leaflets and sign-up sheets we spent over an hour raising awareness on how additional taxes on everyday items such as soft drinks could actually in the long-term have really significant impacts on hard-pressed taxpayers’ budgets. After hearing about failed attempts elsewhere to introduce taxes to curb obesity rates, many added that they would be reluctant to support any further taxation asking ‘Where would taxation stop otherwise?’
With local support we quickly handed out all of our soft drinks and spoke to a few hundred different people. Both locals and visitors to Cardiff were delighted to have a group such as the TPA tackle head on the issues that affect them daily especially when so many people feel that politicians are completely out of touch.
I personally would like to thank everyone for their hard work on the day and for the people of Cardiff who were so welcoming.
Yesterday The TaxPayers’ Alliance took the War on Waste to Canterbury. Stationed outside the Beaney Library we split off into pairs to cover as much of the street as we could, thankful for the excellent weather despite forecasts to the contrary.
With signup sheets on hand and were focussed on raising awareness of local government waste by handing out leaflets. People were particularly outraged to learn of the £18,181 claimed in expenses by the council chief – on top of his £135,000 salary.
Many people stopped to learn more about our figures and how we had collected them while others were unsurprised (“What do you expect? They’re politicians!”) but delighted to know that there was a group drawing attention to these issues. More than once we were asked for directions to the cathedral or nearest restroom which is always a hazard when wearing matching t-shirts.
We left a sunny Canterbury with many new supporters, having had a thoroughly enjoyable day!
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is proud to present the eighth Town Hall Rich List, the Who’s Who of senior local government executives which details the job titles, full remuneration and many of the names of all local council employees whose remuneration exceeds £100,000.
Praised in the past by politicians on both sides of the House of Commons, the Town Hall Rich List remains the definitive guide to senior executive pay in local government, making it a vital tool for taxpayers wanting to judge which authorities are delivering the best value for money.
Executive pay in many town halls across the UK continues to be insulated from economic reality, despite the urgent need to find savings and the fact that many councils claim that they have insufficient cash to fund frontline services, and enforce pay freezes on their rank and file staff.
The key findings of the research are:
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
It is good news that the number of senior council staff making more than £100,000 a year is falling, although that may only be because many authorities have finished paying eye-watering redundancy bills.
“Sadly, too many local authorities are still increasing the number of highly paid staff on their payroll. It’s particularly galling in places where councils are pleading poverty and demanding more and more in Council Tax. Taxpayers expect their council to be filling potholes, not pay packets. Many rank-and-file staff in local councils will be equally appalled – at a time when councils across the country are freezing pay, it appears the money they’re saving is being used to line the pockets of town hall tycoons.
On Thursday, five people and a cardboard cut-out set out on a noble quest: to persuade the good people of Luton Airport to support our campaign to abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD), a tax levied on all people flying out of the UK. After marching dramatically (well, taking a train) to Luton Airport, we set up a stall in the lobby outside the departure lounge, put on our armour (TaxPayers’ Alliance t-shirts) and primed our clipboards for battle. Armed with facts and figures, we were prepared.
Fortunately, our campaign was not as perilous as implied above. People, especially at this time of year, know they are affected by the high cost of flying. However, when I asked “Are you aware how much of your money is going directly to politicians through Air Passenger Duty?”, none knew the answer.
Most were shocked when they found out that when flying in economy class on a short-haul flight, they were paying £13 directly to the Treasury. £13 of their hard-earned money which was not going towards improving their flying experience in any way.
On the whole, the public reaction was positive, with many keen to sign up to our campaign. After our visits earlier this week to Bristol Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport, support for the abolition of APD is growing stronger each day.
If you are reading this and are among the millions of people due to head off on their summer holiday this month, enjoy your flight! Hopefully, the Chancellor might make it a little more affordable soon.
On Wednesday, three of us from Tufton Street made our way to Liverpool John Lennon Airport to continue our week of campaigning against Air Passenger Duty (APD), calling on the Chancellor to axe the hated Holiday Tax.
Two lattes, three trains and four hours later, we finally arrived and unpacked. Our stand was set up just as holidaymakers headed to departures, which meant we had an audience of flyers who at this time of the year are all too aware of the painful effect that APD has on the price of going away.
We campaigned with two additions to the team: David, a wonderfully engaged local activist and Hector the Taxman, a cardboard cut-out of the 1990s HMRC cartoon. We got a lot of entertainment from photographing Hector in departures, in duty free, and of course, posing with the John Lennon murals. It appears we have found the real Fifth Beatle! David, who also joined us on our War on Waste Roadshow when we stopped in Liverpool, was rather more active than Hector however.
We generally had a good reaction to the campaign, especially amongst families, when having to pay the £13 charge on a short-haul flight for every family member really makes a difference. Staff at the airport were also particularly sympathetic. After all, a reduction in APD would increase traffic through the airport and create more jobs too.
Going home, we were pleased with the progress that the campaign is making so far, spreading the message across the country. APD is a tax that hits ordinary people and businesses alike – it doesn’t make sense, after all, for the Government to tell firms to export across the world and then charge punitive rates on exploratory visits – and we’re hopeful that the Chancellor will listen to country when he stands at the Despatch Box to deliver the Autumn Statement later this year.
Yesterday Andy Silvester wrote on the Spectator blog, arguing for a proper Recall Bill.
There seem to have been few people who did not offer their two cents on David Ruffley. From domestic violence charities to his political opponents, in the chattering classes and in the blogosphere, all kinds of people felt the need to share their opinion about whether it was appropriate for the Bury St Edmunds MP to remain in Parliament after accepting a police caution for assaulting a former partner.
Avon and Somerset Police have spent £5,000 on a flower garden, in an effort to reduce local crime rates. The idea is that a communal area will reduce anti-social behaviour. As a result, the regenerated part of St. Andrew’s Park becomes another area of questionable policies in Bristol, after the mayor’s proposal of “Residents’ Parking Zones” . While the new garden is no doubt pleasant, it’s effectiveness in cutting down on crime is clearly an area of doubt. This sort of item is for local councils, not police budgets.
As our Chief Executive Jonathan Isaby told the Telegraph, we worry that police might spend more of our money on similar woolly schemes, which shouldn’t be their responsibility. Local police budgets should be used on more effective, proven methods. The need to focus on core responsibilities is especially acute when Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has made it clear in their recent report that forces will have to cut spending in the coming years. Many forces have already dramatically reduced the number of ‘bobbies on the beat’. How can these police forces spend that same money on such oblique methods?
Nobody can object to the flowers brightening up the area. But the money should come from the appropriate place, preferably a local fundraising scheme. It seems that the police are wasting their time and taxpayers’ money on something that shouldn’t concern them.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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