‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ hits Warrington
Jul 2013 15

On a scorching hot day last Saturday, TPA supporters met in Warrington to talk to local people about our ‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ campaign – people who are sick and tired of paying over the odds for their energy bills. Although the weather may have been glorious, they still remembered the cold winter and the cold spring we had all just endured. Many had just received bills are were surprised just how high they were. 

“If all you do is complain to your family and friends and then do nothing about it, don’t be surprised if nothing changes”, said one  of the people we spoke to. “I’ll be writing”, said many passers by.

Local TPA supporter, David Hartley, said, “All we can do is present people with the facts and make it easy for them to write to their MP. Ordinary people don’t know what’s going on. It’s great to be in a position to talk to them and also give them something practical to do.”

David’s view is the view of all the people who have helped us run our street stalls. We are in Salisbury tomorrow, and then in Darlington and Swansea on Saturday, and in Birmingham on Wednesday next week. If you would like to help on those stalls, or perhaps run one yourself, please contact National Grassroots Coordinator, Andrew Allison.

If you haven’t done so already, please write to your MP using the website energyswindle.org.

IPSA’s proposed pay hike for MPs is totally unpalatable
Jul 2013 11

Reacting to the proposals announced by IPSA this morningMatthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“The idea of hiking MPs’ pay when everyone else has been suffering such a squeeze on their earnings is totally unpalatable. MPs do an important job and work hard, but they already earn nearly three times the national average and more than most of their European counterparts.

“The extensive research commissioned by IPSA has demonstrated that people think the current level of pay to be broadly fair, so this announcement amounts to an unaccountable quango putting up two fingers to the British public.

“IPSA is right to be reforming the gold-plated parliamentary pensions and cutting golden goodbyes for retiring or defeated MPs, but it beggars belief that they have come up with a plan that will increase the cost of our politicians when everyone’s budgets are under such pressure.

“I hope that IPSA will reflect on the reaction to their proposals and come back with fresh plans which will be acceptable to the taxpayers picking up the bill.”

 

 IPSA commissioned ComRes to undertake extensive public opinion research into the issue of MPs’ remuneration, involving two full surveys of more than 2,000 people, four focus groups and two Citizens’ Juries. The 165-page report from ComRes could not have been clearer in its conclusion:

“Most people think that an MP’s salary is broadly fair once they have reflected on the nature of the work and comparative pay scales of other public sector workers… There is very little appetite for increasing the pay of MPs.”

Read the report in full here 

Revealed: Brussels gives environmentalists €100m to support expensive energy taxes
Jul 2013 05

Following the launch of Stop the Energy Swindle, our campaign fighting the taxes pushing up family and business energy bills, we can reveal that £86 million has been handed to environmentalist campaigns in the UK and the rest of the European Union since 1997. British taxpayers have paid for around £8.6 million of this budget.

Taxpayers are paying twice: once for the grants, and again in higher energy bills caused by successful environmentalist campaigns for energy taxes and new regulations.

Click here to read the report including a full list of funded groups

The key findings of this research are:

  • Total EU funding to environmentalist groups has been over €100 million since 1997, around £86 million at the current exchange rate.
  • Based on Britain’s share of gross contributions to the EU budget, that is around £8.6 million.
  • 25 groups have received more than €1 million eachup from 19 groups in the past year alone, including Friends of the Earth (£5.8 million) and the Climate Action Network (£2.2 million).
  • The European Environmental Bureau has received the most funding, at nearly €12 million (£10 million). With nearly 60 per cent of its funding coming from the public sector the organisation cannot be considered as a meaningfully independent non-governmental organisation.

This funding is an unfair subsidy at the expense of many people who may not agree with the environmentalist campaigns’ objectives:

  • Many environmentalist campaigns are largely funded with money raised in taxes and have an increasingly direct role in public sector decision making. Their status as true non-governmental organisations has been undermined and they should be subject to greater transparency.
  • Environmentalist campaigning often ends up colluding with commercial interests. Groups pressing for greater regulations create profits for some businesses and costs for others. Those costs are often passed on to consumers.
  • Taxpayer funded lobbying and political campaigning does not represent any independent economic or popular interest. It promotes the priorities of politicians or officials and allows them to cement or expand their existing influence. It acts to reinforce existing political judgements.
  • The organisations funded by LIFE+ also take political positions that contradict Britain’s interests, though they are in line with the policy goals of the European Union institutions.
Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
It is a disgusting waste for Brussels to spend our money funding their pet environmentalists like Friends of the Earth. This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to put a democratic gloss on fat subsidies for special interests in favoured industries like wind power. It would be funny if it was not so expensive for families already struggling to pay their bills. Taxpayer subsidies for radical environmentalists need to end. Politicians should be looking to put in place a more affordable energy policy rather than caving in to demands from their sock puppets for ever more onerous taxes and regulations.
COMMENT: Our MPs should want to represent the people, not pick up bigger pay packets
Jul 2013 02

Following suggestions that MPs should be given a 10 per cent pay rise, John O’ Connell argues against the increase in the Yorkshire post:

WHEN George Osborne delivered the Spending Review last week, he said that there would be a restriction of one per cent on public sector pay increases in the near future. On top of that, he called for an end to incremental pay increases. Both were welcome moves. Many public sector bodies have been dodging the earlier pay freeze, announced when the coalition came to power in 2010, by moving staff up within existing pay bands.

Click here to continue reading the full article

TaxPayers’ Alliance responds to suggestions MPs should receive £7,500 pay rise
Jul 2013 01

Responding to reports that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is considering setting a pay rise for MPs of around £7,500, taking the salary to £75,000, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“MPs are already very well paid both in terms of European politicians and the average salary in this country.

“It would be particularly egregious for politicians to be handed a whopping great pay rise while hard-pressed taxpayers tighten their own belts.

“Ipsa must recognise that its own polling shows the public simply do not support an increase, nor would it be consistent for MPs to take a rise while rightly freezing pay elsewhere in the public sector.”

Justice for Bridlington
Jun 2013 21

A few weeks ago, I wrote about East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s (ERYC) failed regeneration scheme in the seaside town of Bridlington. Since then, local residents have set-up a campaign group, Justice for Bridlington which we are happy to support.

Justice for Bridlington tried to contact all sixty-seven ERYC councillors this morning, asking them to sign this declaration. Forty-one councillors publish private e-mail addresses on the council’s website. All forty-one of them received a covering letter and a copy of the declaration to sign and return.

The remaining twenty-six councillors use official eastriding.gov.uk e-mail addresses. All twenty-six e-mails were returned as blocked. Justice for Bridlington is calling for more transparency and accountability in County Hall, yet ironically cannot contact councillors who use official e-mail addresses. Councillors appear to have no control over who contacts them or what lands in their inbox.

If the council thinks councillors are being spammed, there are always spam filters. To block e-mails completely highlights the problems that exists.

The story doesn’t end there though. Those councillors who have received their copy of the declaration, received the following message from Matthew Buckley, Head of Legal and Democratic Services:

Dear Members

Members may have received an e mail from an organisation calling itself
‘Justice for Bridlington ‘.   Could I ask Members not to respond to this e
mail for now.

We are discussing an appropriate response.

This e-mail was sent despite the following request in the covering letter sent to councillors:

You are not obliged to reply to this letter, but if you do, we ask that you do so as an individual. A reply made jointly, by a political group, or via officers may imply that you are unable to fulfil your function as a councillor and/or that you are unwilling to engage with your electorate.

So there we have it. In trying to call those who are responsible for the regeneration fiasco to account, and in trying to campaign for more transparency in County Hall, Justice for Bridlington is prevented from contacting councillors who use official e-mail addresses, and council officers have tried to stop all councillors from replying and signing the declaration.

Is it any wonder why I’ve said in the past, democracy is dead in County Hall?

Bin strike on hold in Brighton
Jun 2013 21

Refuse collectors and street cleaners are going back to work in the interim whilst they consider a new offer from the Brighton’s Green Council. It is hoped the council has done what is necessary this time to avoid a potential second week of strike action, however during the recent strike there was an interesting development.

Shop owners in some parts of the city such as George Street took matters into their own hands and cleared up the area surrounding their shops as it was having a direct impact on their bottom line. Those on strike reacted to this by saying that the shop owners were taking strike breaking action, but others such as Cllr Warren Morgan took a more pragmatic approach. Cllr Morgan went on record to say “I don’t agree that people sweeping up outside their homes or shops is strike breaking”.

So we actually had an interesting situation where not only did residents and businesses not receive a core service that they had paid for through taxation, but they were compelled to carry out that vital service themselves.

Anyway here is a something to think about for the future. If businesses are happy to clean up the area in which they operate to protect their bottom line, should they not get a discount in their Council Tax? Perhaps reduce Council Tax in the city so people have more spending power, and reduce business rates so that particular barrier to entry for  small businesses is lessened, and  then just let the shop owners take responsibility for the area in which they operate. This could be a move that via lower taxation could help spur an economic revival of shopping areas in Brighton, where currently too many shops stand empty.

New Bumper Book of Government Waste exposes £120 billion of wasteful spending – that’s £4,500 for every household in the UK
Jun 2013 15

In advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review, we can reveal how the Government could cut vast swathes of wasteful and unnecessary spending. A new online edition of the Bumper Book of Government Waste, published today, identifies potential savings to the tune of nearly £120 billion, a figure almost exactly equal to the current budget deficit. This equates to a massive £4,500 for each and every household in the UK - enough to give every family in the land a luxury holiday or pay their household energy bills nearly three times over.

Excellent work has been undertaken by the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group in terms of finding savings, but taxpayers’ cash has still been wasted in a number of ways, with significant sums ripe for being saved in many areas, including:

  • £53 billion - Additional cost of funding pay and pensions for public sector workers over and above the private sector average, based on analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics and the Pension Policy Institute
  • £25 billion - Amount wasted through inefficient public sector procurementand poor use of outsourcing, based on an authoritative report from the Institute of Directors
  • £20.3 billion - Cost to the economy of public sector fraud, according to the National Fraud Authority
  • £5 billion - Amount paid in benefits to those with an income in excess of £100,000
  • £4 billion - Losses to the taxpayer from RBS and the sale of Northern Rock
  • £2.9 billion - Amount spent needlessly by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which should both be scrapped
  • £1.2 billion - Annual subsidy to foreign farmers through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy

Our figure is almost certainly an underestimate. A rigorous assessment of the public sector efficiency commissioned by the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s bloated  public sector were as efficient as that in the economies of countries like the US, Australia, and Japan, no less than £137 billion could have been saved in the last year.

In addition to the big ticket items, we have identified hundreds of examples of smaller sums being wasted. It is, however, all still taxpayers’ money and there is no excuse for waste, regardless of the amount involved. Among the culprits identified are:

  • Arts Council: Gave a £95,000 grant to artists in Brighton for “Skip”, a rubbish dumpster outlined with yellow lights
  • Crawley Council: Spent £5,070 on 12,200 hot drinks from vending machines for council employees, when the equivalent number of tea bags would have cost just £200
  • Department for International Development: Spent £21.2 million on a road maintenance project in Bangladesh, later pulled due to “fiduciary irregularities” after it emerged that less than 10% had actually been spent on roads
  • Durham Council: Funded a £12,000 clothing allowance to allow councillors to wear “Geordie Armani”
  • Hull Council: Spent £40,000 on a concert in honour of the councillor who is Lord Mayor this year
  • Ministry of Defence: Paid £22 for light bulbs that are normally 65p
  • Prison Service: Paid £720,000 to professional actors for role playing that is aimed at helping inmates become employed
  • Scottish Government: Signed a £1.4 million 4-year contract for taxis for civil servants in Edinburgh – despite staff being told to use buses
  • Stoke-on-Trent Council: Spent £330,000 to pay for redundancy packages and subsequently rehiring 25 members of staff

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“George Osborne must take the golden opportunity offered by the Spending Review to get the nation’s finances under control and ease the burden on taxpayers. The latestBumper Book of Government Waste shows that tens of billions of pounds are still wasted each year and there is an enormous amount of fat left in the public sector.

“If Ministers do something about it, they can give taxpayers a better deal and still provide the frontline services which people depend on the most. More money must be left in the pockets of struggling households who need it to support their own families and their own causes. They will get better value than any politician or bureaucrat.” 

Reaction to Energy & Climate Change Select Committee report on the Severn Barrage
Jun 2013 10

Commenting on this morning’s select committee report on the Severn Barrage, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

“It is good news that the Committee has rejected the latest proposal for an enormously expensive Severn Barrage. It would be a woeful deal for the country and a terrible burden on families already struggling with their energy bills. Another major official study into the feasibility of the project would be a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money, so soon after the last one.”

New Research: How to fix corporate taxes
May 2013 28

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph Matthew Sinclair argues that our complicated capital tax system needs reform. His article follows the release of our new research How to fix corporate taxes which is part of a set of papers that demonstrate the steps needed to introduce key recommendations from the 2020 Tax Commission final report, The Single Income Tax.

Click here to read the full Daily Telegraph article

Click here to read How to fix corporate taxes

Executive summary and recommendations

  • Economic performance continues to be weak, six years after the financial crisis began in late 2007.
  • Taxes on capital are high and complicated. Eurostat figures show that only France’s implicit rate is higher. Reform is necessary, both to sharpen economic competitiveness but also to restore public trust and legitimacy in the system.
  • Corporate taxes have a demonstrably negative effect on investment, innovation and growth.

Recommendation 1: Cut Corporation Tax

  • Corporation Tax should be cut, with two main options:
  • A ‘shock budget’ option which cuts the rate from 23 to 11 per cent in 2014, below Ireland’s rate of 11 per cent.
  • A staged ‘three hit’ option which cuts the rate to 20 per cent in 2014, 15 per cent in 2015 and 10 per cent in 2016.

Recommendation 2: Abolish Capital Gains Tax

  • Capital Gains Tax misallocates capital by imposing a financial burden when people and companies reallocate assets between themselves
  • Capital Gains Tax does not raise as much revenue as might be expected. In 2011-12, it raised just £4.3 billion compared to total current receipts of £572.6 billion.
  • Capital Gains Tax constitutes double taxation because cash received from selling most assets has effectively already been taxed. Buyers value assets according to their after-tax returns.

Capital Gains Tax should be abolished, with two main options:

  • A ‘shock budget’ option in 2014 with full abolition.
  • A ‘two-step’ option, cutting the rate to 10 per cent in 2014, to effectively extend entrepreneur’s relief to all investments, followed by abolition in 2017.

Recommendation 3: Introduce a new single tax on capital income

  • Corporation Tax is not fit-for-purpose and should be comprehensively reformed for the long term. It should be replaced with the Single Income Tax on distributed income. There are four main transitional options:
  • Extend Real Estate Investment Trust status so that non-property companies can benefit, too. Relaxed rules on minimum distributions and other technical concerns should be considered.
  • Extend partnership status by making disincorporation and incorporation easier.
  • Create a small business trial for a ‘lite’ version of the Single Income Tax, limited to companies under a pre-determined size. This limit could be increased later.
  • Create a regional trial for a ‘lite’ version of the Single Income Tax, limited to companies established in a specific region, perhaps Northern Ireland or the North East of England.

Click here to read How to fix corporate taxes

Commenting on the launch of How to fix corporate taxes, Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

Much simpler, fairer and more competitive capital taxes would change our economic fortunes and end the grim slog of trying to make do as prices rise faster than your wages year after year. We desperately need to end the costly farce of taxing the same money two or even three times and instead impose a single tax on capital or labour income. In the absence of much needed strategic tax reform though, politicians should at least cut not only corporation tax but also capital gains tax.

May 2013 17

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has today released a new video highlighting how the UK’s taxes on people’s wages are needlessly complex and obscure. Produced with the team from See what you mean, the video highlights how National Insurance is a second income tax in all but name.

Previous YouGov polling for the TPA has shown that many people are not aware of how much tax they actually pay. The video makes clear the real rates of tax people pay when Employee’s National Insurance and Employer’s National Insurance are factored in.

Basic: Employer’s NI 13.8 % + Income Tax 20 % + Employee’s NI 12% = 40.2%
Higher: Employer’s NI 13.8 % + Income Tax 40 % + Employee’s NI 2% = 49%
Additional: Employer’s NI 13.8 % + Income Tax 45 % + Employee’s NI 2% = 53.4 %

(See below for an explanation of the combined rates)

Polling has also shown that most do not understand the impact of Employer’s National Insurance, which effectively reduces their wages.

Last year the TPA set out how to abolish National Insurance by 2017, which would make the tax system simpler and more transparent. At the 2011 Budget, the Chancellor indicated a desire to merge Income Tax and National Insurance, which Mr Osborne said would be a “historic step to simplify our tax system and make it fit for the modern age”. Unfortunately, the Treasury has thus far failed to publish the work of the Office for Tax Simplification on this topic or come up with any solid proposals.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Taxing the same income three times is a pointless complication which only benefits politicians trying to conceal how much tax people really pay. National Insurance has been nothing more than another Income Tax for years and additional redundant taxes mean higher administrative costs for businesses. The Government can and should merge them into a single tax which would be simpler, fairer and more honest.” 

**Calculations** Employer’s National Insurance is added at the rate of 13.8% on top of gross salary. So if you’re paid another £87.87 of gross salary, the employer has to pay an additional 13.8%, which would be £12.13, That adds up to £100.

 
For basic rate (20p) taxpayers:
From your additional gross salary of £87.87, you have to pay 20% Income Tax, or £17.57.
And you pay Employee’s National Insurance at 12%, or £10.54.
So you’re left with £59.75 from that £100 that your employer paid out.
In other words, the real tax rates are, all from that total £100 cost of paying you more, 12.1% Employer’s National Insurance, 10.5% Employee’s National Insurance, and 17.6% Income Tax, adding up to a true basic rate of 40.2%.
 
The same process is used to calculate the true rate of 49.0% for higher rate (40p) taxpayers and the true rate of 53.4% for additional rate (45p) taxpayers.
Revealed: the 2,525 council staff earning more than £100,000
May 2013 10

We are proud to present the seventh 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.

Since the first edition in 2007, the number of senior staff appearing on the Town Hall Rich List has soared. This is the first time that the TPA has reported a drop in the number on remuneration of more than £100,000, largely because of the considerable number of redundancy packages paid out in 2010-11, which increased total remuneration for that year.  The welcome fact that many councils have made their data more accessible and transparent has also had an effect on this figure.

However, 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.

The key findings of the research are:

  • There were at least 2,525 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2011-12, a fall of 11 per cent on the previous year’s 2,839.
  • Despite this, 103 councils increased the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2011-12.
  • Birmingham City Council doubled the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2011-12 to 24, the biggest increase of any local authority.
  • The figure of 2,525 is almost certainly an underestimate. The opacity of some councils’ accounts makes it impossible to separate teaching staff from council staff. To ensure accuracy, some data which would have shown more council employees receiving £100,000 or more in 2011-12 has been omitted.
  • In 2011-12, there were 636 council employees who received remuneration over £150,000.
  • Of these, 42 council employees received remuneration in excess of £250,000.
  • The council with the most employees in receipt of remuneration over £100,000 in 2011-12 was Camden with 40. There were 38 councils with at least 15employees receiving more than £100,000 in 2011-12.
  • The council employee with the largest remuneration package in the UK in 2011-12 was Katherine Kerswell, the Group Managing Director of Kent County Council, who received £589,165. That total included a considerable redundancy package.
  • The largest remuneration package excluding larger than usual, one-off payments due to redundancy or retirement was received by John Sharkey, Chief Executive of SEC Ltd, a subsidiary 91 per cent owned by Glasgow City Council. He received£314,553.
  • The highest paid council Chief Executive not in receipt of redundancy payments was Derek Myers, Joint Chief Executive of Hammersmith & Fulham andKensington & Chelsea councils, who received £266,911.
  • The largest remuneration package in Wales in 2011-12 was received by Jonathan House, Chief Executive of Cardiff City Council, who received £219,159. The council in Wales with the highest number of employees who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 was Carmarthenshire with 12.
  • The largest remuneration package in Scotland in 2011-12, was received by Linda Hardie, Executive Director of South Lanarkshire Council who received £543,538. The council in Scotland with the highest number of employees who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 was Glasgow with 27.
  • The largest remuneration package in London in 2011-12 was received by R Heaton, Executive Director of Resources at Newham Borough Council, who received £317,137.

Matthew Sinclair, 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 finally 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, some of whom are given hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation just to move from one public sector job to another. Residents won’t be impressed if their council pleads poverty when it is demanding more and more Council Tax, only then to spend it creating more town hall tycoons.”

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