NHS wastes £46m on spin doctors, diversity advisors & a Third Sector Environmental Sustainability Lead
Apr 2014 01

We can today reveal that the NHS wasted over £46 million last year on 1,129 unnecessary jobs in areas such as public relations, the EU and “green” staff. The money spent on these positions  could have paid for 1,662 full time nurses.

Click here for a link to read the full report
Click here for the full data by region and highest paid

The startling new figures have been exposed by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every NHS organisation in the UK. The total cost of NHS non-jobs is likely to be an underestimate given that some trusts failed or were unable to respond.

Key findings:

  • The NHS employed at least 826 public relations staff at an estimated cost of £34 million.
  • It employed at least 165 equality and diversity staff at a cost of more than £6.8 million.
  • It also employed at least 86 ‘green’ staff costing around £3.5 million.
  • West and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSU employed 36 public relations staff at a cost of over £1.4 million.
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust employed 22 public relations staff at a cost of almost £1.1 million.
  • Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust employed six equality and diversity staff.
  • Barts Health NHS Trust employed an NHS EU Office Director, an EU Office Manager and a Senior EU Policy Manager at a combined cost of more than£210,000.
  • In 2013, six NHS employees received total remuneration of more than £100,000 for an unnecessary job.
  • Imperial College Healthcare, Northumbria Healthcare and Oxford University Hospitals employ a Trust Energy Manager, an Estates Energy and Sustainability Officer and an Energy Manager respectively. However these trusts were found to have significantly overpaid for their energy in previous TPA research.

Roles identified in this research include:

  • Mersey Care NHS Trust’s Third Sector Environmental Sustainability Lead.
  • South London Healthcare Trust’s Energising for Excellence Delivery Lead.
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust’s Car Park Sustainability Officer.
  • University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust’s Administrator of Green Travel Facilities.
  • Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s Diversity and Inclusion Lead.
  • Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Productive Leadership Facilitator.
  • Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s Art Curator and Programme Manager.
  • Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust’s Equality and Diversity and Human Rights Manager.
  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Energy Management Manager.
  • 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s E-Communications and Social Media Officer.

Click here for a link to read the full report
Click here for the full data by region and highest paid

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said:

“Taxpayers expect the health budget to be spent on real doctors, not spin doctors. The NHS employs far too many people in jobs that do nothing to deliver frontline patient care. It’s time for health chiefs to launch a war on waste and ensure the NHS budget is spent on on patients rather than squandered on bureaucrats.”

TaxPayers’ Alliance response to the Budget
Mar 2014 19

Reacting to the Budget, Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance,said:

“The Chancellor has announced some welcome relief for taxpayers struggling with stretched budgets. Measures such as the higher personal allowance, the freeze in fuel duty, and abolition of the alcohol duty escalator will all ease the burden on hard-pressed families. It’s also good to see savers finally being rewarded after being overlooked for too long by successive governments.

“However, George Osborne has no room for complacency. His failure to reform Stamp Duty is a missed opportunity and it is deeply regrettable that yet more taxpayers are likely to be dragged into the 40p Income Tax band.”

Commenting on key areas mentioned in the Budget, he added:

Failure to ease the burden imposed by Stamp Duty
“It’s extremely disappointing that the Chancellor failed to address the increasingly punitive burden which Stamp Duty is imposing on home-buyers. More and more people are being hit by higher rates, with the ludicrous slab-rate structure seriously skewing the property market.”

Abolition of the Alcohol Duty Escalator
“This is a good day for ordinary drinkers across the country. It is also a good day for the many small businesses that they support. The Call Time on Duty Campaign has consistently argued that the Alcohol Duty Escalator was bad for consumers, for business and for the economy. We applaud the Chancellor for taking the decision to get rid of it. Cheers!”

Investment Allowance
“Doubling the investment allowance to £500,000 a year is a significant and worthwhile move to encourage investment but it only strengthens the case for more fundamental reform of corporate taxes.”

Income Tax Personal Allowance / Thresholds
“Raising the Personal Allowance again next year will lift more taxpayers out of tax and cut the bill for everyone paying the basic rate. While higher rate taxpayers up to £100,000 will not be hit again, the 40p threshold remains much lower than it where it would have been if it had increased over time with earnings. The 45p rate should also have been abolished.”

Air Passenger Duty
“It’s fantastic news that the Chancellor has scrapped the higher rates of APD, meaning an end to the most extortionate levies for holidaymakers, families visiting relatives overseas and those flying abroad on business.” 

Closing the Deficit
“The national debt is still increasing at an alarming rate and an entire generation is being saddled with crippling debt interest payments. The quickest way to bring down the deficit would be to wage a war on waste in the public sector so that public spending is brought back under control once again.”

Savers
“British savers will be relieved that not only has the tax-free ISA allowance increased, the system has been drastically simplified too.”

Letter to The Times: Successive justifications for HS2 have failed to convince
Mar 2014 17

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has co-signed the following letter which has been published in today’s Times:

Sir, There are few more iconic images of the recent storms and the flooding which devastated so many thousands of lives than the Great Western Line at Dawlish collapsing into the sea, cutting off the main rail route to the South West of England.

This underlines the stark choice in determining priorities for investment in Britain’s transport network — between investment in increasing resilience, developing regional transport connections and relieving the plight of the thousands forced to stand on trains each day, or ploughing ahead with a London-centric high-speed line with a dreadful business case which connects just four cities.

Successive justifications for HS2 have failed to convince, so its supporters are asserting that the West Coast Mainline is full to capacity and HS2 is needed to relieve it. Yet Network Rail’s latest figures show that intercity trains are running at just 52 per cent full into Euston station at peak times, and that Euston is one of London’s least busy termini.

With the Treasury predicting that HS2 will cost £73 billion — £1,500 for each adult in Britain — as well as causing huge environmental damage, it is clear that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the UK’s transport priorities, and where, if at all, HS2 fits with this.

Hilary Wharf, HS2 Action Alliance;
Baroness Bakewell;
Natalie Bennett, Green Party;
Sir Keith Bright, ex London Regional Transport;
Dr Eamonn Butler, Adam Smith Institute;
Nigel Farage, UKIP;
Sir Christopher Foster, Network Rail;
Jonathan Isaby, TaxPayers’ Alliance;
Denise Jeffery, Wakefield Council;
India Knight;
Ruth Lea, Arbuthnot Banking Group;
Dr Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute;
Mary Portas;
John Prideaux, Intercity and British Rail;
Roger Salmon, ex Rail Franchising;
Alexei Sayle;
Chris Stokes; ex Strategic Rail Authority;
Martin Tett, Bucks County Council;
Sir Andrew Watson, CPRE Warks;
Sir Barney White-Spunner, Countryside Alliance;
Baroness Wilkins;
Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trust

 

George Osborne must declare a war on waste and cut taxes in a Budget for taxpayers
Mar 2014 13

The 2014 Budget provides the last meaningful opportunity for the Chancellor to help hard-pressed taxpayers before the General Election.

In next week’s Budget, the Chancellor should:

  • Declare a War on Waste to cut out unnecessary spending
  • Cut taxes to stimulate investment, create jobs and ease the cost of living
  • Reform taxes and reassess the structure of government

These three areas are covered in the TaxPayers’ Alliance submission to HM Treasury in advance of the Budget. You can read our full submission here.

Key recommendations include:

Waste

  • Public sector pay and pension reform including an end to the gap between public and private sector pay.
  • An end to the NHS ring-fence with a reduction in NHS spending in line with other departments.
  • Scrap the HS2 white elephant and use some of the money saved for better value rail and road projects.

Taxes

  • Cut both employer’s and employee’s National Insurance to 11 per cent.
  • Abolish the alcohol duty escalator.
  • Cut the main rate of Corporation Tax to 20 per cent in 2014 instead of 2015.
  • Cut Fuel Duty by 5p per litre.
  • Freeze the Carbon Price Floor at 2014 levels.
  • Cut Stamp Duty Land Tax using at least one of the three options proposed in our paper Stamp Duty – a counterproductive tax.

Reform

  • Extend the use of dynamic modelling used in last year’s Autumn Statement to all fiscal policy announcements. Dynamic analysis using the HMRC CGE model should be required for all fiscal policy changes announced by the Government.
  • Rename National Insurance to properly reflect its true function as a parallel system of income tax on employment earnings.
  • Set about departmental reform by abolishing the Department for Culture, Media and Sport along with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, transferring some responsibilities such as museums, universities and training to other departments.

Speaking in Advance of the Budget, Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

“The Chancellor is in the last chance saloon when it comes to helping taxpayers before the next election. If he wants to ease the burden on family finances and secure economic growth then he has to cut waste and cut taxes in this Budget. Promises of help after 2015 will not be enough – he must take this opportunity now to deliver a Budget for taxpayers.” 

The morning after the Budget, the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Institute of Economic Affairs will bring together a cross-party panel of experts to assess its political and economic implications. Click here for more details

Councillors will no longer be able to claim pensions
Mar 2014 11

Responding the  news that councillors are to be removed from the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) , Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

It is wrong that councillors were ever able to sign up to the pension scheme for local authority employees. They receive an allowance to represent their community, not a pay packet, and treating them as council staff will only have served to skew their priorities and their place in the system of democratic accountability. Ending councillors’ entitlement to a local government pension will not only save taxpayers’ money, but also remind them that they are there to represent the views of their residents to the council, not the other way round.

Our  research has shown i n 2010-11 4,548 councillors were enrolled on the LGPS – a number that has grown significantly in the last couple of years.

Polling shows 80% do not believe there should be further tax hikes on wine & spirits as we launches campaign drinks coasters
Feb 2014 27

We’ve unveiled the latest phase of our campaign to bring about an end to further automatic tax hikes on wine and spirits. New polling reveals that half of all Brits believe taxes on wine and spirits are too high and 80% do not believe there should be further tax increases on wine and spirits. The average household will pay nearly £300 just in duties on wine and spirits in 2013-14 and that this will increase by nearly a third in the next five years, according to analysis of Treasury projections.

In a concerted effort to force the Chancellor to scrap further planned tax hikes, the TPA – along with our partners the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) and the  Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) - will distribute 300,000 drinks coasters to pubs and bars across the UK as part of the Call Time on Duty campaign.

The coasters reveal how much consumers are paying in tax on their drinks - 79% of an average bottle of spirits and 57% of an average bottle of wine – and urges drinkers to lobby the Chancellor to scrap the hated Alcohol Duty Escalator (ADE) in the forthcoming Budget.

Key findings:

  • The average household will pay £297 just in duties on wine and spirits in 2013-14.
  • The average household will pay £393 just in duties on wine and spirits in 2018-19 That is an increase of nearly a third (32.2%) in just five years.
  • Since George Osborne became Chancellor the average household now pays 13.3% more in duties on wine and spirits. This will have increased by 49.8% by 2018-19.
  • These increases are despite the fact that consumption of alcohol in the UK is falling according to the Office for National Statistics.

Results of ComRes polling:

  • More than half of people polled (54% for wine, 56% for spirits) believe that the current level of tax on wine or spirits is ‘too high’, and exactly half (50%) believe it is too high in both cases.
  • Four in five believe that the current level of tax on wine or spirits is either ‘too high’ or ‘about right’ (81% for wine, 80% for spirits). The vast majority of British adults do not believe that the level of tax on wine and spirits should be increased yet the ADE will automatically increase duty by 2% above inflation this year.
  • Nine in ten British adults who offer an opinion (92%) correctly state that the majority of EU countries have a lower level of taxation on wine and spirits than the UK.
  • Yet just one in five (20%) polled are aware that UK alcohol consumption per person is not higher than the European average.
  • This suggests that most British adults are not aware that British citizens pay higher taxes on wine and spirits while drinking less alcohol.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“Taxpayers are handing over a fortune to the taxman when they buy a drink and they deserve to know just how much of what they pay goes to the Exchequer. George Osborne has a chance to scrap planned tax hikes at next month’s budget. He did beer drinkers a favour last year so it’s only fair that this time he scrap the escalator and bring some cheer to those who enjoy a glass of wine or spirits.”

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:
“We have always said that a further tax hike would be deeply unfair. The Chancellor’s alcohol super tax is bad for the economy, bad for business and bad for consumers. Scrapping it one year early would allow the Chancellor to drive down the deficit, support our pubs and restaurants, and help this great British industry to create more jobs and increase exports.” 

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive, said:
“It is time for the Chancellor to show his support for the Scotch Whisky industry which employs thousands of people and earns £135 a second for the balance of trade. It is unfair on the industry, which is vital to the Scottish and British economies, and consumers that, in the UK, 79% of a bottle of Scotch is made up of excise duty and vat. The domestic market for Scotch Whisky has declined 12% in volume since the alcohol duty escalator was introduced. George Osborne should boost the UK’s public finances, the industry and consumer confidence by scrapping the escalator this year and freezing duty.”

Feb 2014 18

Click the video above to watch our film celebrating ten years of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Sunday Telegraph Interview: If tax doesn’t fall, the economy will
Feb 2014 12

Our founder, Matthew Elliott, was interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph in the run-up to our 10th anniversary. Here’s a sneak peak:

“We are not in any way anarchists here,” insists Matthew Elliott, founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and one of Westminster’s most feared campaigners, before delivering an apocalyptic prediction.

“We recognise there is a role for the state but when government is spending more than half the nation’s wealth, the economy can’t survive over the longer term.”

His argument is that people will simply stop working if they see half of their salaries disappear in tax.

This, in a nutshell, is the case against high taxes and the reason why 10 years ago Mr Elliott and three friends launched the TaxPayers’ Alliance, arguably the most influential new pressure group of recent political times.

Click here to read the full interview

TaxPayers’ Alliance celebrates 10 year anniversary and its part in securing tax cuts worth £37 billion
Feb 2014 12

- “They have fought tirelessly for taxpayers across the country” - Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister

Today marks our 10th anniversary as we celebrate our part in securing tax cuts worth £37 billion in 2014-15 for hard-pressed taxpayers.

Since our founding in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, we have campaigned for lower taxes and an end to government waste. Our research such as the Bumper Book of Government WasteTown Hall Rich List and Taxpayer funding of Trade Unions have not only made headlines, but changed policy.

With calls for new and higher taxes, and with all levels of government continuing to waste money, the need for a voice to stand up for taxpayers is needed more than ever.

The TPA success story:

  • Our Public Sector and Town Hall Rich Lists led to the annual publication of all senior public sector salaries – a major win for public sector pay transparency
  • Recent successes have included freezes in Fuel Duty secured after our FreezeFuelDuty campaign, a cut in beer tax thanks to our MashBeerTax campaign and a change in Government policy towards World Bank loans to Argentina through the StopFundingArgentina campaign
  • Ministers responded to our largest ever Freedom of Information campaign by announcing cuts to the £113 million taxpayer subsidy to the trade unions that we exposed
  • Numerous quangos like the Carbon Trust and the Sustainable Development Commission have been abolished or cut in size after our calls to cull these bodies
  • Regional Development Agencies have been scrapped after our research exposed extensive waste in their grant programmes
  • We exposed how the Government’s anti-extremism fund was actually funding extremists, prompting ministers to rethink ‘Prevent’ grants
  • The work of the 2020 Tax Commission has provided a radical blueprint for reform of our broken tax system and its final report, The Single Income Tax, gained international recognition by winning the Templeton Freedom Award
  • Nearly 6,000 media hits in 2013 alone
  • 80,000 registered supporters and grassroots events across the country all year round
  • Our research team has published 201 research papers on topics ranging from how to save money in local government to exposing the expansion of the EU quangocracy

But there is still much to do:

  • We will continue to expose waste at all levels of government, such as the £120bn revealed in the Bumper Book of Government Waste
  • We will fight for tax cuts for all taxpayers whether they are consumers, on the minimum wage, part of the the squeezed middle or are looking to invest and grow the economy
  • We will oppose all new and pernicious tax increases such as the so-called ”Mansion” Tax or the reintroduction of the 50p rate of tax
  • We will fight for lasting tax reform to simplify one of the longest and most complex tax codes in the world

What the politicians say about the TPA:

“Over the past ten years the TaxPayers’ Alliance has made an enormously valuable contribution to political debate in Britain. While we may not agree on every proposal put forward, their values are the right ones: a low-tax country with a low-waste Government. From their eye-catching campaigns on the deficit and debt – to their calls for greater transparency in local government – they have fought tirelessly for taxpayers across the country. I look forward to their contributions in the next ten years.”
Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance is to be congratulated on using its media profile in an effective and thought-provoking manner to challenge elected politicians as they seek to balance the need for high quality public services with the taxation demands on individuals and companies.”
Rt Hon Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance has spent the last decade making life pretty uncomfortable for politicians and mandarins who like spending the public’s money. We owe them a debt of gratitude for that. I’m sure I would disagree with them on some spending priorities, but it’s vital for the health of our democracy that spending plans are subjected to the kind of energetic scrutiny that the TPA provides. Wishing all at the TPA a successful second decade.” 
-Tom Harris MP, Labour MP and former minister

“There is no doubt that the debate about public spending in this country has been invigorated by the work of the TaxPayers’ Alliance. What they have done, in a way that few think tanks have done, is to make the level of waste of taxpayers’ money comprehensible to ordinary men and women. They are intellectual street fighters, highlighting waste not just at a Westminster level, but also in our local councils and of course over the Channel in Brussels. An excellent start, but sadly there is much, much more work to do.”
-Nigel Farage MEP, Leader of the UK Independence Party

Since the creation of the TPA, Matthew Elliott has has founded the influential civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, successfully directed the NO to AV campaign and now heads up EU business campaign Business for Britain. The TaxPayers’ Alliance is rated as 22nd in the world for Top Transparency and Good Governance Think Tanks and 15th for Best Advocacy Campaign in the Global Go To Think Tank Index ratings.

Matthew Elliott, Founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“In 2004 all three party leaders were committed to ever higher levels of public spending at a time when taxes were already far too high. In the last decade Britain has changed and so have our leaders, but the need for a voice for taxpayers is as strong today as it was then. The TPA has chalked up some serious victories for taxpayers during its first decade – but there is still much to be done. As long as bureaucrats are wasting our money the TPA will be there to stand up for those who actually foot the bill for government spending.”  

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance has a remarkable history for an organisation that started out as weekly meeting in a coffee shop just ten years ago. But a decade later spending remains too high and so do taxes. That’s why we need a War on Waste. In the run-up to the 2015 election the TPA will continue our fight to ease the burden on all families, seeking to persuade every party leader to go into the election pledging to cut taxes and cut spending.” 

The rules on publishing where our money goes must be made irreversible
Feb 2014 11

After the publication yesterday of our Bumper Book of Government Waste, I have a piece in The Times today with a couple of helpful suggestions as to how to ensure that waste in the public sector is rooted out.

You can read read the article in full if you are a Times subscriber, but if not, my two key recommendations are as follows.

Firstly, while Francis Maude has done commendable work at the Cabinet Office in saving taxpayers’ money across Whitehall, there ought to be one minister with a roving brief specifically to wage war on waste with their salary entirely performance-related. The same kind of role could also be replicated in local councils too.

Secondly, and crucially, it is vital that the good practices introduced by the current Government in terms of publishing how politicians and bureaucrats spend our money are made as irreversible as possible. As I write in the piece:

What has helped to expose waste in the public sector has been the coalition’s insistence that central and local government publish detailed spending data online. This transparency is vital if we are to hold politicians to account for how they spend our money.

However, the coalition won’t be in power for ever and a future government may not share its commitment to transparency. So, with ministers scrabbling around for items to include in the Queen’s Speech, I have a simple proposal: a short Bill to enshrine in law that all government departments, quangos and local authorities have to continue publishing how they spend our money. That way, any attempt to row back on transparency would require primary legislation, which it would take a very bold politician to introduce.

I don’t propose new laws lightly, but this small measure would make it as difficult as possible for ministers in any future administration to take away from taxpayers the right to see how our money is being spent.

 

Revealed: £1 in every £6 of government spending in 2012-13 was wasted
Feb 2014 10

We can today reveal that the Government wasted £120.4 billion in 2012-13, the equivalent of £4,560 per every household in the UK. The astonishing sum is identified in a new edition of the Bumper Book of Government Waste (BBGW) which identifies potential savings in government expenditure.

The research is published to mark the launch of our new War on Waste campaign as we celebrates our tenth anniversary.

  • The amount of waste revealed is greater than the UK deficit and is bigger than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of New Zealand.
  • The money wasted per household is enough to pay an average energy bill three times over or send every taxpayer on a trip to the World Cup in Rio.

The TPA’s first Bumper Book of Government Waste, published when we launched in 2004, identified £50 billion of taxpayers’ money being wasted. This total has increased dramatically due to greater scrutiny, large improvements in government spending transparency and a large increase in overall spending.

Click here to read the full, in-depth report

Here are just some of the ways politicians wasted our money in 2012-13:

  • £22.5bn is the cost to taxpayers of overpaying on public sector pay and pensions compared to the private sector.
  • £20.6bn is the cost to the economy of public sector fraud, according to the National Fraud Authority.
  • £8.9bn is the impact of Britain’s broken planning system on increasing the Housing Benefit bill.
  • £1.4bn is the cost of overpaying GPs compared to those in the best healthcare system in the world (France).
  • £2.7bn is the cost of contributory benefits for those who don’t need them, excluding the State Pension.
  • £1.2bn is how much was spent on claims for clinical negligence in the NHS, a 10.8 per cent increase from last year.
  • £1.6bn is the cost to taxpayers of higher sickness levels in the public sector than in the private sector cost taxpayers.
  • £2.3bn is the cost of income related benefits going to the richest fifth of households.
  • £1.5bn was lost due to a Ministry of Defence property giveaway.
  • £1.9bn is the amount that could have been saved if DfID’s budget had been cut in line with other departments.
  • £1.1bn is the cost of excessive subsidies to train operating companies.
  • £770m is the cost to taxpayers of missed hospital appointments in England and Scotland.
  • £300m is the cost of unused and destroyed medicine in the NHS.
  • £177.7m is the cost of extra “privilege days” for civil servants.
  • £1.4m is the cost of software licences purchased by DWP for a project that was cancelled.
  • £471,000 was wasted on a single DWP office that was left empty for eight months.
  • £342,000 was spend on a Foreign Office-funded TV series that was not completed before the production company was dissolved.
  • £382,000 was spent on hotel rooms booked for the 2012 Olympic games that were left unoccupied.
  • £2,340 was blown on 6 pictures of herbs by Heart of England NHS Trust.
  • £3,860 was spent by Angus Council on a whisky tasting event for international golfers.
  • £1,000 paid for a Basildon council officer to investigate a picture taken of the mayor looking at her phone during an Armed Forces Day ceremony.
  • £32,000 was paid out by a council to compensate a man who slipped on a berry in a churchyard.
  • £33,333 was spent on pot plants by the Welsh Government.
  • £70 was spent by the Forestry Commission on a bunny outfit.

The Cabinet Office has embarked on a major programme of efficiency and reform. This has led to improvements in Whitehall procurement and contracts, but far too much taxpayers’ money is still wasted at local, national and European levels.

Click here to read the full, in-depth report

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“We need a War on Waste if taxpayers are to secure a better deal from the endless layers of government which are spending their hard-earned money. Politicians and bureaucrats are still squandering our cash while families struggle with punishing levels of taxation. Rooting out that wasteful spending once and for all will mean that more money can be left in the pockets of taxpayers, who are by far the best judges of how their own money should be spent.”

Essex County Council set to hike Council Tax
Jan 2014 17

Essex County Council is set to hike council taxes by 1.49 per cent this year, in order to raise an additional £2.9 million. This means that the Council, which receives 73p in every pound of Council Tax paid by Essex households, has also lost the right to a central government grant available to councils who freeze taxes or keep increases beneath 1 per cent.

This tax increase is an unnecessary imposition on households that have seen the cost of living spiral in recent years as a result of high taxes, stagnant wages, expensive housing and botched government energy policy. Essex could save millions of pounds by cutting wasteful spending instead.

Over the last three years, Essex County Council has spent £50.6 million on external consultants, and £39.6 million on temporary staff. That’s a shocking £90 million, or £30 million a year.

The Council spent £3.3 million on an extra lane on the A176 near Basildon Hospital, in order to ease traffic congestion – a move branded a “huge waste of taxpayers’ money” by Councillor Kerry Smith who pointed out that the problem could be solved for much less by removing a pedestrian crossing instead.

It spent £2.3m on ‘compromise agreements’ over the last 6 years. These have been condemned as an attempt to gag outgoing employees by opposition leader Julie Young, who branded the move “excessive”.

In addition, 36 Essex employees received over £100,000 remuneration in 2011-12. Pruning this back would save taxpayers a packet.

Councillors might consider reading the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s report on 201 ways to cut council tax, which recommends sharing services and personnel, combining senior management posts of finance director and chief executive, freezing recruitment, and considering the formation of unitary authorities out of county councils and their numerous districts.

75 per cent of county councils are planning to hike council tax this year. With central grant funding for councils falling by 43 per cent over the life of the current parliament, critics have warned that without extra revenue, vital local services will be underfunded and councils pushed towards failure.

However, supporters of high government spending have been increasingly shown to be wrong, with six out of ten local residents telling a recent ICM poll that their services had either stayed the same or actually improved since budget reductions.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has managed to cut council tax by 20 per cent since 2006 by sharing services and staff with neighbouring councils, and selling unused council-owned buildings.

There are literally tens of millions of pounds worth of savings that could be made without cutting a single library, care home, bin lorry or policeman. Essex County Council should spare a thought for thousands of hard-pressed Essex families and think again before hiking taxes.

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