Last week the Telegraph reported that 5,000 patients being treated by the NHS had been put into hotels for overnight stays. Freedom of Information requests showed 21 trusts have spent £1.6 million since January 2012.
The scheme has come under the attack of patients’ groups, who expressed their concern over the care of patients at these often luxurious hotels. Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern said the schemes were “an outrageous waste of taxes”. Even worse is that he thinks this can sometimes pose a risk to patients.
Examples of some of the hotels used include the four-star Mercure Sheffield St Paul’s Hotel and Spa. This has been used on eight occasions. The price of one night with breakfast normally costs around £94.
Is this really a justifiable way to spend taxpayers’ cash? It would better for the NHS to cut out wasteful spending in other areas so they can prioritise their resources – there are many examples of how they can do this in the Bumper Book of Government Waste.
New Land Registry figures released by property management firm London Central Portfolio have revealed that the average price of a flat in England and Wales has risen above £250,000, taking them into the punitive 3 per cent band of Stamp Duty. Properties bought for a quarter of a million pounds or less pay up to £2,500 in Stamp Duty. But the tax bill rockets above this, to an eye-watering £7,500 on a property bought for £250,001.
The data is based on the Land Registry’s publicly available ‘price paid’ data (which shows an average price of around £239,000 for flats), but reportedly makes adjustments to exclude some transactions. But with both datasets showing average prices around the level at which the punitive rate kicks in, a lot more home buyers will be finding themselves stamped with a much nastier level of duty.
But you can make a difference. Go to StampOutStampDuty.org to automatically send your MP a message about Stamp Duty.
The Sun ran a poll carried out by YouGov last week, revealing the public’s deep dissatisfaction with the way government spends taxpayers’ money and the lavish severance packets of top public sector bureaucrats.
This is a brief summary of the results:
• Asked to think about the most wasteful area or government, the top three choices were welfare at 52 per cent, immigration at 51 per cent and health care services at 30 per cent. The fact that health ranked third on 30 per cent is striking. It shows that despite ring-fencing NHS budgets, the public is fully aware that there is still plenty of fat to trim.
• 83 per cent rated big government projects that did not work or go over-budget as either a very large or a fairly large problem. Given that HS2 is already reported to cost more than £10 billion than first budgeted, this is hardly surprising.
• 81 per cent said that wasteful administration of Whitehall departments was a very large or fairly large problem, with just 1 per cent saying it was not a problem at all.
Efficient government spending
• Asked to think about which party spends tax most effectively, none covered itself in glory: 47 per cent said neither party spends tax money effectively, 3 per cent said they were both equally effective and 13 per cent did not know.
• 79 per cent said that a complex and badly-run tax system was either a very large problem or a fairly large problem. George Osborne’s supposed drive for tax simplification has stalled with the 2013 Finance Bill one of the longest in years. Britain badly needs simplicity and competitiveness – The Single Income Tax would deliver both in spades.
• Recent severance bonanzas in the BBC and NHS have fuelled discontent with excessive payouts.
• Only 2 per cent of those surveyed said there should be no cap at all on severance pay. 16 per cent favoured a twelve month cap, 15 per cent said there should be a three month cap, and 12 per cent said there should be a one month cap and 30 per cent said there should be no severance pay whatsoever.
• 59 per cent thought that “Severance pay for these officials is usually a way of rewarding their failure in the role.”
• Only 13 per cent of respondents said “Severance pay for these officials is usually a fair recognition of the work they have done in the role”
The message is clear – we need simpler taxes and less wasteful spending.
Figures released by The Department for Communities and Local Government last week revealed the huge amount councils are raking in from parking. They are set make £635 million in 2013-14, up from £601m last year. Parking is an increasingly becoming a nice little earner for councils.
The RAC Foundation found that Westminster City Council made the largest amount from parking with £41.6 million in 2011-12. Kensington and Chelsea made £28.1 million in the same period and Camden followed closely with a £25 million. Whilst the biggest receipts are for London councils, Brighton and Hove made £14.4 million – more than many London Boroughs and twice as much as Manchester. Even when the money councils spent to the infrastructure is taken into account, English councils still made £412 million for 2011-12.
These figures come less than a fortnight after a landmark ruling against Barnet council mean councils all over the country can no longer use income from parking to pay for anything other than road works and similar road transport costs.
Some councils don’t seem bothered by the fact that many high street retailers are already struggling with crippling, ever-increasing business rates in difficult economic times.
It’s clear that some local authorities see hard-pressed motorists as little more than cash cows to be milked at every opportunity. Motorists in Britain already pay the highest fuel taxes of any country in the EU28 and are hit with punitively high rates of road tax. The Treasury took a combined £32.5 billion in road and fuel tax in 2012-13, but only £7.1 billion was spent on roads.
Thankfully, TPA campaigners in Colchester, Essex, managed to shoot down plans to install parking meters on a busy high street.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said yesterday that “£635 million municipal profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules.” He also reminded councils that “The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers.”
Despite this, transport minister Norman Baker said earlier this month that he was considering increasing the cap on parking fines.
When a government minister admits that parking charges are so sky-high that huge penalties for illegal parking are no longer a deterrent, you know there is something wrong. The sooner local authorities rein in these colossal parking profits, the sooner they can claim to be back on the side of local people and businesses.
Government officials would like us to believe that its Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programme, despite costing £1.3 billion, will have “no impact on consumer bills.” But when a major player in the industry warns against the risk they pose to energy bills, the Government’s blue-sky thinking starts to fall apart.
Keith Anderson, the boss of ScottishPower, spoke out today against the Government’s predictions of how much instigating the ECO programme would cost. The programme covers a raft of measures supposed to help reduce our energy bills, ranging from the instillation of solid wall and cavity wall instillations to full loft insulation and the glazing of windows. Whilst Mr Anderson has said that ScottishPower broadly agreed with “energy costs remaining stable and flat over the next period of time” he warned that there was “increased cost pressures coming through.” Consumers want stable and flat prices, but the Government’s own ECO programme is putting this at risk.
With the scheme expected to end up costing far more than the Government’s initial estimates, Mr Anderson said: “We are seeing a big increase in our costs associated with the new ECO scheme. What we are seeing coming through is, this is in line with what we predicted – not what the government predicted.”
All of the investments in energy saving measures have to paid for, meaning energy companies need to make higher profits. Inevitably, the consumer picks up the cost of this in higher bills. The added cost of the ECO programme does not take into account many of the Government’s other environmental schemes, such as the carbon tax and subsidies for expensive energy sources like wind turbines.
According to energy regulator Ofgem, environmental charges and VAT already make up 11% of to a typical family gas bill and 16% of a typical electricity bill. The average family therefore pays nearly £200 a year in energy taxes. The increased bills that the ECO programme will create mean that the Government is adding yet more to the burden on families struggling with their bills. Help us stop them by writing to your MP at EnergySwindle.org
Kent residents were aghast last week at news that the County Council had hatched a plan to increase the amount councillors could claim for mileage by 50 per cent.
The proposal was to increase the rate from the HMRC-recommended level of 45p to 66p per mile for journeys made by car while on council business.
As Jonathan Isaby, our Political Director, responded:
“Kent councillors already get one of the highest basic allowances of any English county council, so many residents will be surprised to discover that they can claim anything for mileage, let alone put in a collective invoice for over £130,000 a year. Local taxpayers will be appalled at the proposal to hike the mileage allowance above the HMRC-recommended level, especially at a time when budgets are tight and civic leaders are having to find savings. Councillors should be looking to reduce this exorbitant bill, not increasing it yet further.”
So it’s very good news to learn that the proposed increase has now sensibly been dropped, a move which the TaxPayers’ Alliance warmly welcomes.
Councillors need to remember that their role is not a full-time job and that they already receive an allowance to recognise their time commitment and cover the additional costs which arise through their duties. Councillors getting an additional travel allowance on top of this should think themselves lucky and, if anything, be seeking to reduce that bill, not increase it.
Let’s hope common sense continues to prevail at Kent County Council, although we will be quick to make our feelings known if this issue is revisited in the future.
In recent months both Liberum Capital and RWE npower have estimated that the Government’s policies – which require around £150 billion in the energy sector – will lead to a roughly 30 per cent above inflation increase in your power bills by 2020 (a 19 per cent increase in dual fuel bills according to RWE npower). By contrast, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Committee on Climate Change quango insist that Government’s policies will actually reduce your bills, by 11 per cent in a dual fuel bill.
Who do you think is right? The politicians and bureaucrats insisting that we can get £150 billion in investment essentially for free or the independent analysts who think it will be very expensive indeed?
There is a lot of money at stake. After all, just the 30 per cent increase in electricity bills will roughly double energy taxes from around £200 a year today to £400 a year by 2020. If gas prices rose in line with that, then your overall bill would more than triple.
Liberum Capital carried out a straw poll to see if the Government was succeeding in convincing investors that there was no affordability problem for current British energy policy. They asked 41 fund managers and analysts working in the sector; 5 government employees; 6 utility company employees and 3 others which of the following propositions they thought was the most credible:
A. Liberum Capital / RWE: £150bn of investment to 2020 = circa 30% increase in power bills (or 19% duel fuel according to RWE); or
B. UK Government / Committee on Climate Change: £150bn of investment to 2020 = 11% reduction in duel fuel energy bills.
Every single one of the 55 respondents replied that they found answer “A” more credible. None of them supported the Government’s contention that this policy will not lead to a sharp increase in bills.
Of course this is hardly a scientific poll. But it does show that the Government is wrong to dismiss the common sense intuition that massive investment in expensive source of energy like on and offshore wind turbines will be very, very expensive. They need to acknowledge the price that poor families here in Britain will pay for their vanity project.
If you want to help us keep up the pressure for a more affordable energy policies, please write to your MP at EnergySwindle.org.
It’s great to see that our Stop the Energy Swindle campaign has unnerved the politicians and bureaucrats at the Department of Energy & Climate Change. Over the weekend we received a letter from Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, seeking to evade responsibility for his department’s role in increasing energy bills.
Our Chief Executive Matthew Sinclair has written back to Mr Davey, reminding him how taxes and regulations push up the cost of energy. Click here to read our letter in full.
At the TaxPayers’ Alliance, we strongly oppose the big increase in MPs’ pay proposed by the “IPSA” quango. We have set up a petition which you can sign below to support action to scrap the proposed pay hike and ensure that there is proper accountability for future decisions over MPs’ pay. We will send the petition to MPs and IPSA, as part of our response to their consultation.
Greenpeace has attacked the calculations underlying our EnergySwindle.org website and the Daily Mail report on our new campaign.
They have two key objections: first that we have assumed a similar rise in gas bills to the rise in electricity bills projected by Liberum Capital; second that the Liberum Capital report is based on high estimates of the cost for investment required in the electricity sector.
I find it implausible that taxes on domestic electricity will rise dramatically relative to taxes on domestic gas. If we start from the premise that the Government is serious about its policies working out and meeting their emissions and renewable energy targets, which is the whole point of the campaign, then they need to get as close as possible to a single tax on emissions, whatever the source.
Allowing a 29% rise in electricity prices by 2020 (all of it the result of higher taxes) and a 100% rise in electricity prices by 2020, without any increase in gas prices, would have to create enormous distortions. I think Ministers need a substantial rise in gas prices if they are going to avoid creating all kinds of unfortunate incentives and unintended consequences by imposing radically different effective carbon prices on different components of a typical family’s energy costs.
They may simply hope that rising gas prices will deal with the problem. The scale of the shale gas revolution calls that assumption into question. If the development of shale can reduce prices in the United States then it can do the same in Europe’s smaller gas market. But maybe they will get lucky and gas prices will rise without assistance. Regardless of how it happens, my contention is that for their policy to add up they need a rise in gas prices similar to that expected for electricity prices.
To put it in simpler terms, we are projecting that the Government will continue to do roughly what they have done so far. Energy taxes currently make up 16% of a typical electricity bill and 11% of a typical gas bill. There is a difference but they are in the same ballpark. Greenpeace thinks that the Government will change policy from increasing taxes on gas and electricity by a similar amount to only increasing taxes on electricity.
Maybe that will happen. These are projections and very far from an exact science given that many of the policies are only set a few years in advance. If there were no increase in gas prices, how would that affect our results?
In that case, gas bills would remain at £830 a year. If you assume no rise in gas prices – but the same 29% rise in electricity prices – then taxes double to nearly £400 by 2020. If you assume a uniform rise in electricity and gas prices – as we have at EnergySwindle.org – then energy taxes roughly triple to around £600 by 2020. It is obviously an important difference and an important debate but it does not alter our central conclusion that energy taxes are set to rise dramatically over the rest of this decade.
In terms of total bills we are talking about the difference between £1,650 in 2020 and £1,880 in 2020. To call our judgement that £1,880 is more realistic if the Government sticks to its current course scaremongering is ridiculous. Either one of those scenarios is more than scary enough. The results used in EnergySwindle.org are a robust estimate showing that families already struggling with their bills are going to be hit a lot harder by rising energy taxes over the rest of this decade and beyond.
It does not make sense for me to get into the debate over the Liberum Capital electricity estimate in quite the same detail here. But the underlying numbers – in terms of the investment required – are similar to the “Ambitious Nuclear” scenario outlined by the Committee on Climate Change. Liberum Capital have drawn out the implications of those numbers instead of playing games like setting them against strong assumptions for energy saving or rising fossil fuel prices. The problem for Greenpeace is that they are – to put it lightly – not big fans of nuclear power. And the “Ambitious Renewables” scenario which avoids a big expansion of nuclear power requires a lot more investment.
If we wanted to follow the kind of path I expect Greenpeace would prefer – if energy companies put down even more wind turbines and other renewables – it would require even more investment, even more profit in the energy sector to pay for the investment and even higher prices to pay for those profits. All of the projections we have talked about so far would go out of the window and might look rather tame.
Today we are launching a new campaign about rising energy family energy bills. We are urging the Government to cut energy taxes that are adding record amounts to family and business energy bills and we need your help to achieve this. Visit www.energyswindle.org to see how much your bill will increase in coming years and tell your MP to do something about it.
It only takes a minute and it makes a real difference. If you don’t write to your MP and tell them how you feel about high energy taxes, how will they know?
Taxes push up the price of energy. www.energyswindle.org allows you to enter your latest bill and find out how much is tax, and how much your bills will be by 2020 and 2030 if politicians do not change their plans. The average family energy bill will be nearly £1,900 in 2020 at current prices, and over £2,920 by 2030. Ofgem estimates that taxes and charges are already costing a normal family nearly £200 a year. Currently they make up 11 per cent of a typical family gas bill and 16 per cent of their electricity bill.
We will be hosting action days in dozens of cities across the UK about soaring bills. If you want to join us you can get in touch via email.
Stop the Energy Swindle is urging the Government to:
Responding to today’s statement by George Osborne, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“The Chancellor has announced some welcome savings which will ease the pressure on taxpayers now and in the future, including some sensible changes to the welfare system and an attempt to end the absurdity of pensioners on the Costa del Sol getting the Winter Fuel Payment. Tens of billions of pounds are still being wasted by bloated bureaucracies each year, so there is plenty of room for further cuts. Unfortunately Mr Osborne is still boasting about squandering enormous amounts on foreign aid and vanity projects in the energy sector, while other developed economies are showing more restraint.
“The best news was on public sector pay. At the moment public sector staff get more generous pay than their counterparts in the private sector and gold-plated pensions. Mr Osborne has taken an important step towards delivering a fairer deal, although he is still planning to increase the pay of bureaucrats already receiving more than the private sector workers who pick up the bill.”
In advance of the Spending Review, we published a new edition of the Bumper Book of Government Waste which identified potential savings to the tune of nearly £120 billion. You can download it by clicking here.