High Business Rates force another business to close
Sep 2013 11

During a report on BBC News yesterday, it was highlighted just how crippling Business Rates can be.

When Ian Shaw lost his job, he decided to open his own Fish & Chip Shop in Rochdale. Unfortunately, after 18 months, he is being forced to close because of crippling costs. Mr Shaw pays £10,000 in rent for his business premises and a massive £18,722 in Business Rates. He told BBC News:

If I can’t make it work, no-one’s going to make it work. I have literally put my heart and soul into it.


He has the support of his local MP, Simon Danczuk. He told BBC News that property prices have fallen in Rochdale by 40 per cent over recent years, however Business Rates have remained the exactly where they are. This puts people off opening new stores, which leads to vacant properties.

Ian Shaw appears to be paying more in taxes than he makes in profit, which is not only unsustainable, but is clearly wrong. If the Government is truly concerned about the High Street, then it cannot continue to punish people like Mr Shaw who when after losing his job, did something positive, opened a new business, and provided much needed employment in his local community.

You can do something positive by supporting our campaign to freeze Business Rates. Go to FreezeBusinessRates.org and write to your MP. It doesn’t take long and it makes a real difference. People like Ian Shaw need to be encouraged, not beaten into the ground by excessively high taxes.

Sep 2013 11

Responding to the report HS2 Regional Economic ImpactsMatthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“The Government has squandered taxpayers’ money on a cynical attempt to win over the many, many people who think this white elephant is the wrong way to spend tens of billions of pounds of their money.

“If ministers want to develop a new appraisal method for transport projects then they should do that and see how it affects the business case for a range of strategic alternatives. That will help test whether the model is reliable and provide useful evidence about which projects offer the best value for money. Instead they have just decided that this specific project alone will be held to a new standard.

“The report is based on the dodgy assumptions in the Government’s own business case and the additional services they have promised, despite their budget actually relying on cuts to existing services.

“This is not a serious attempt to assess the merits of HS2, just another expensive propaganda exercise. The Government must scrap HS2 and look again at less grandiose, but better value, projects that can deliver the capacity needed on Britain’s rail network.”

Sep 2013 09

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report High Speed 2: a review of early programme preparation is a devastating critique of the flawed rail project. We have consistently campaigned against HS2 since it was first proposed.Our previous  research has highlighted many of the issues mentioned in the PAC report including the weak business case, hidden costs and absurd assumptions about the value of time spent working on trains.

The TPA will soon publish new research analysing the progress of HS2 and the inherent problems with the project.

Previous research includes:

The TPA has produced a series of campaign videos about the cost of HS2 and hosted aconference about cancelling the line.

Responding to the publication of the report, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

“This devastating report should set the alarm bells ringing at full volume inside the Treasury and the Department for Transport. The business case for HS2 is weaker than ever and the Public Accounts Committee could barely be more damning in its criticism of a project whose value is unproven but which will cost every family in the country thousands of pounds.“Week by week, the calls to ditch this project are getting louder and the sooner that the Government shunts this white elephant into the sidings for good, the better for the taxpayers who will otherwise be saddled with an eye-watering bill.”

Thousands of NHS patients put up in hotels
Sep 2013 03

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.

Average flat in England and Wales now pays punitive 3 per cent Stamp Duty
Aug 2013 12

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.

Public want simpler taxes and less waste
Aug 2013 07

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:

Government waste

• 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.

Tax

• 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.

Golden goodbyes

• 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.

Motorists landed with £635 million parking bill
Aug 2013 06

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.

ECO programme means bigger energy bills for consumers
Jul 2013 26

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 

A victory for common sense and taxpayers in Kent
Jul 2013 24

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.

Government spin is not convincing the experts on energy taxes
Jul 2013 23

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.

Jul 2013 15

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.

 

Help us stop an 11% hike in MPs’ pay
Jul 2013 12

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.

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