Revealed: The NHS wasted £41.4 million on energy & water last year
Nov 2013 21

We can today reveal that the NHS in England wasted £41.4 million last year simply by paying more than it should for energy and water. The money wasted annually on excessive utility bills could cover the cost of employing 1,350 more nurses. A number of hospitals could have saved over a million pounds each just by getting a better deal from their energy costs.

Click here to read the full research (including breakdowns for individual regions and tables of those wasting the most)

The analysis is based on official NHS statistics that reveal the energy bills and potential savings of NHS sites across England, including individual hospitals. The NHS in England spent more than £630 million on energy and £80 million on water 2012-13. Many trusts could save significant amounts simply by emulating those that secure the best value for money.

Key findings of this research:

  • In 2012-13, NHS sites in England which overpaid for their water and energy could have saved at least £41.4 million by paying the average rate.
  • The overpayment is equivalent to the salaries of 1,350 nurses.
  • NHS sites across England, including hospitals, spent more than £630 million on energy in 2012-13.
  • However, some sites paid a higher rate for their energy than others. If sites which overpaid for their energy had instead paid the average rate, they would have saved at least £37.8 million.
  • NHS sites across England, including hospitals, spent almost £80 million on water in 2012-13.
  • If the sites that overpaid for their water had paid the average rate, they would have saved £3.6 million.
  • Peterborough City Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Eastbourne District General Hospital and Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital would have saved more than £1 million each had they paid the average rate for their energy.
  • 19 sites could have saved over £500,000; 40 sites could have saved over £250,000; and 74 sites could have saved over £100,000 in 2012-13.
  • By paying the average rate for water, six NHS sites could have saved over £100,000 in 2012-13: The Royal London, Cumberland Infirmary, University Hospital of North Staffordshire’s Royal Infirmary, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Ashworth Hospital and Peterborough City Hospital.
  • Peterborough City Hospital was in the top three most wasteful sites for both water and energy. It paid four times the average rate for energy and five times the average rate for water.
  • Other trusts saved millions by paying substantially less than the average rate. Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Royal Liverpool Hospital, a site with amongst the highest energy consumption in England, would have spent £4.6 million more on energy had they paid the average rate.
  • 2gether NHS Foundation Trust’s Wotton Lawn site would have paid almost £1.9 million more for their water if it had paid the average rate for the South West

Click here to read the full research (including breakdowns for individual regions and tables of those wasting the most)

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

“People pay a lot of money to support the NHS in their taxes and they expect to see every penny possible spent on front line care, not wasted overpaying for basics like energy and water. This is just one way for the NHS to save millions and ease the pressure on its finances created by years of runaway growth in costs. Before Trusts complain about pressure on their finances now that the bumper increases in funding have dried up, they should take these kinds of opportunities to secure better value for money they need to shop around for a better deal. It is time for a war on waste in the NHS.”

From shared services to grazing sheep – the 201 ways councils could cut Council Tax
Nov 2013 06

Today we publish an innovative guide for local authorities, showing them how to cut waste, save money, reduce bureaucracy and ultimately cut taxes. Produced by Councillor Harry Phibbs, 201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government, contains advice on how council chiefs can make big savings in areas such as procurement and shared services. It also suggests more subtle changes – such as placing word limits on council documents and running competitions to find savings – that can save time and establish a culture of efficiency often lacking in too many town halls.

Click here to read the full 201 ways to save

The Government will shortly announce the local government settlement – containing the size of the grants councils receive from central government. At the same time that families are dealing with the competing pressures of rising prices and stagnant wages, local authorities shouldn’t add to that burden with Council Tax hikes. Instead, local politicians should look to cut out wasteful spending and consider removing non-essential services.

Highlights of how councils can save money:

  • Share services with neighbouring councils and other public sector bodies. “Joined up” government between the NHS and councils’ adult social care departments is particularly important. (Numbers 1 and 2)
  • Freeze recruitment and ensure that any new hires are approved by a Vacancy Management Panel chaired by the council leader. (Numbers 5 and 96)
  • Councils should consider whether it makes sense for a county council and its constituent districts to form a unitary authority. Councillors in Wiltshire have said this has saved a fortune through efficiency savings. (Number 115)
  • Combine the post of Finance Director and Chief Executive. (Number 71)
  • Offer an interactive smartphone application which allows residents to access services and report issues such as a missed bin collection or broken street lights. It costs £1.50 less to process a smartphone enquiry compared to telephone contacts. (Number 183)
  • Investigate savings through bulk purchasing rather than using endless different suppliers at various prices for the same product. (Number 186)
  • Publish corporate credit card use online, in real time and allow armchair auditors help cut out wasteful and frivolous spending. (Number 134)
  • Don’t inflate the cost of pay-offs by including gagging clauses. (Number 142)
  • End automatic pay rises for staff. (Number 176)

Other notable suggestions include:

  • Where appropriate, use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting. (Number 70)
  • Set maximum word limits on the length of reports submitted by officers. Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending. (Number 98)
  • Stop providing free meals for councillors. (Number 154)
  • Provide council tenants with rewards for carrying out their own repairs. (Number 180)
  • Scrap clothing allowances for mayors, their spouses or any other staff. (Number 182)

Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Far too often we hear unimaginative councillors insisting that they have no choice but to raise Council Tax and increase the burden on already hard-pressed families. But there are literally hundreds of ways in which local authorities can save money before even thinking about increasing the Council Tax.

“201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government should be essential reading for anyone in local government and indeed anyone interested in holding to account their local representatives. In future, any civic leader claiming that raising the Council Tax is their only option had better be able to prove that they have implemented or at least considered implementing every single idea we are putting before them today. If not, they won’t be able to look their residents in the eye and insist that they have exhausted the possibilities for saving money.”

Our response to the updated economic case for HS2
Oct 2013 29

Responding to the publication today of The Strategic Case For HS2, Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“This is yet another attempt by the Government to make the numbers behind HS2 stack up, but yet again they have been found wanting. Those in charge of HS2 have consistently overestimated the benefits of the new line and underestimated the burgeoning bill for the project.

“With today’s Department for Transport figures showing another deterioration in the cost-benefit ratio for the scheme, the case for HS2 is now flimsier than ever.

“No amount of spin or re-hashing of the figures will change the fact that HS2 would be a huge white elephant, costing every family in the UK a fortune and failing to deliver the investment which the UK transport network really needs.”
ends”

Research published by the TaxPayers’ Alliance earlier in October demonstrated how the already weak case for HS2 has continued to unravel and specifically challenged the argument that HS2 is required to provide extra capacity on West Coast Main Line (WCML). It can be read here.

Earlier TPA research which questioned the basis on which HS2 includes High Speed RailHS2 Capacity Analysis  and The hidden costs of HS2 /

Familes are footing the bill for politicians to intervene in the dysfunctional energy market
Oct 2013 21

Responding to the announcement of the strike price for new nuclear power stations, Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

“Yet again consumers and taxpayers are footing the bill for politicians to intervene in the dysfunctional energy market that they have created. Subsidies to guarantee investment in nuclear power will be paid for by households through higher energy bills, at a time when throwing money at uneconomic forms of renewable energy has already pushed bills to breaking point. The Treasury’s financial guarantee creates the danger of taxpayers bailing out French state-owned EDF if something goes wrong with the deal. Ministers should instead focus on more affordable forms of power generation available today, rather than guaranteeing profits for energy firms and leaving families to pay the price.”

New research reveals the councils keeping democracy hidden behind closed doors
Oct 2013 14

Our latest research reveals an alarming number of councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who are keeping democracy hidden behind closed doors. Despite receiving guidance from Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, explicitly stating that councils should allow the public to film council meetings, most councils insist on either having approval from the chair, or the majority of councillors present at a meeting. Some councils even ban local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at council meetings – an outrageous position for them to adopt, as those meetings are open to the public.

The key findings of this report are:

  • Just 8 councils out of 30 have no restrictions on recording, blogging, and tweeting, other than those doing so must not disrupt proceedings: Lincoln, Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, Richmondshire, Sheffield, South Kesteven, and York.
  • 12 councils only allow members of the public to record at meetings with approval of either the Chair or the Mayor: Barnsley, Boston, East Lindsey, Hambelton, Harrogate, Hull, North Kesteven, North Lincolnshire, Ryedale, Selby, South Holland, and Wakefield.
  • Bradford and Calderdale councils only allow recording to take place if the majority of members vote in favour of doing so.
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council does not record its meetings, and forbids local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at all meetings of the council.
  • West Lindsey District Council records meetings, but forbids members of the public from recording, blogging and tweeting.
  • Rotherham Council only allows recordings on a device agreed by the council.
Andrew Allison, National Grassroots Coordinator of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said:

Allowing residents the opportunity to see democracy in action is an important part of the democratic process. Not all residents will be able to attend in person, and councils can get around this simply by allowing residents to film meetings themselves. They can also opt for low cost systems to broadcast meetings on their websites. It is time for councils to move into the 21st Century and embrace technology, rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist the moment councillors enter a meeting. 

COMMENT: A Single Income Tax would simplify our excessively convoluted system
Oct 2013 08

Writing in City A.M., Rory Meakin says that the Single Income Tax is the plan for substantial tax simplification that we need:

TAX simplification is back on the agenda, thanks to Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors. Highlighting combined marginal rates of child benefit withdrawal and income tax of 73 per cent for those with four children earning between £50,000 and £60,000 a year, Walker called for radically simpler taxes. “I am all for a flat simple tax system,” he said, adding, “it has been shown to raise a lot more money”.

Click here to read the full article

New research: renewable energy subsidies will double to over £5 billion in next five years
Oct 2013 06

Renewable energy – such as wind – is only competitive thanks to generous Government subsidies. Those subsidies are paid for by consumers through higher household energy bills.We can reveal that, even based on conservative projections, those subsidies will rise from just under £2 billion this year to over £5 billion by 2018/19.

Ministers have claimed that costs will fall over time thanks to greater economies of scale, but the announcement that high subsidies will continue for the foreseeable future suggests that this
strategy has failed, despite the transfer of risk from investors to consumers.

Key findings of this research:

  • Total support for renewable energy through the main subsidy scheme (the Renewables Obligation and Contracts for Difference) will rise from around £1.99 billion in 2012-13 to over £5.32 billion in 2018-19 as more capacity is added to the network.
  • Onshore wind will receive a guaranteed electricity price double the typical wholesale price. Offshore wind will receive triple the typical wholesale price.
  • The Government appears likely to miss a critical target to reduce the cost of renewable energy. The target to reduce the cost of offshore wind to £100 /MWh by 2020 will almost certainly be broken as offshore wind will still receive £135 /MWh in 2018-19, falling from £155 /MWh next year (in 2012 prices).
  • Renewable energy subsidies have failed to deliver reductions in cost. Government policy was supposed to reduce costs by creating economies of scale and driving technological innovation but renewable energy still requires very similar levels of subsidy despite years of subsidy.
  • Despite the level of subsidy, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned that “required investment is at risk” unless higher subsidies for offshore wind are provided.

The total subsidy under the Renewables Obligation is projected to rise as follows:

subsidy

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

“Targets that require massive investment in the energy sector, to install expensive technologies like offshore wind turbines on an enormous scale, will always mean more profits for energy companies and much higher prices for consumers. If the Government are serious about easing the pressure on people’s living standards, they need to take action and scrap lavish renewable energy subsidies. And it is a joke for Ed Miliband to pretend he is taking on the big six on behalf of consumers, when he is proposing to keep the targets in place. If politicians are serious about helping families struggling with their bills, then they need to do something about their dysfunctional and painfully expensive energy policies.”

EU fiscal factbook
Oct 2013 03

The TPA’s new EU Fiscal Factbook has been launched to show British taxpayers how some of their nearly €14 billion annual outlay to Brussels is spent.

The fiscal factbook is full of interesting facts about where some of this money goes and how Brussels hits British businesses with burdensome regulations.

Facts include:

  • The EU spent €2.4 billion on advertising in 2008; Coca Cola spent €2.1 billion
  • £160,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on a fitness centre for dogs
  • The EU has 44 diplomats in Barbados alone
  • It costs taxpayers £150 million a year just to transport MEPs and their offices between the two European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels
  • EU regulation costs the UK economy the equivalent of £5,000 for each household
Sep 2013 27

The Government will introduce a “Work for the Dole” policy, according to a reports  today. The policy, which involves requiring benefit claimants to undertake charity work or work experience as a condition of receiving benefits, follows a detailed plan released three weeks ago by the TaxPayers’ Alliance in our report Work for the Dole.

The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said:

The welfare state rightly provides a safety net for those out of work. But in return, jobseekers must do everything they can to get into work, that’s only fair.

As well as reducing the benefit bill by an estimated £3.51 billion a year, Work for the Dole would also help maintain a minimum level of structure in the lives of people caught in long-term unemployment, enhance the employability of job seekers by demonstrating attributes such as a work routine, make it harder to fraudulently claim benefits and restore a sense of fairness to taxpayers who are forced to pick up the bill for welfare.

The policy is overwhelmingly popular, too. A new YouGov poll for Policy Exchange showed that 56 per cent of the public support a Work for the Dole programme against just 12 per cent who oppose it.

It’s great news that Iain Duncan Smith wants to introduce Work for the Dole. He should be given every encouragement to see it through as soon as possible.

Click here to read the Work for the Dole report

New research shows that the case for HS2 is continuing to unravel
Sep 2013 26

Our latest research reveals that the Government’s already weak case for High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is continuing to unravel. The research demonstrates that the line would not address the most pressing capacity issues on the UK rail network, despite the enormous cost.

With official estimates of the cost rising dramatically and many business leaders and politicians calling for it to be scrapped, the proponents of HS2 have stopped arguing for it in terms of faster journeys and instead are claiming HS2 is needed to address a lack of rail capacity.  But the new report challenges the Government’s argument that HS2 is required to provide extra capacity on West Coast Main Line (WCML), because:

  • Network Rail’s own figures show the WCML to be the least crowded long distance line to London, while routes such as the main lines into Waterloo, Victoria and Liverpool Street and key commuter routes into cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds are already full
  • Capacity on the WCML could be increased far more quickly and cheaply by reducing the number of first class carriages and increasing the length of trains 

Meanwhile, the report updates earlier research to identify the extent to which dozens of towns and cities would see a worse service if HS2 goes ahead:

  • Phase 1 would ensure longer journey times or fewer services to Coventry,WolverhamptonSandwellDudleyStoke on TrentStockportWilmslow, the commuter route between Euston and Northampton, the West Midlands suburban network via Birmingham New StreetShrewsburyWrexhamMid Wales, and all trains linking London Paddington with the Thames ValleySouth Wales and the West of England.
  • Phase 2 would mean longer journey times or fewer services toLancasterOxenholmePenrith, CarlisleLeicesterSheffieldNottingham,DerbyChesterfieldDoncasterWakefieldDurhamBerwick upon Tweed,EdinburghAberdeenInverness and Dundee.

The report also demonstrates that since we last published analysis of HS2 in 2011, there has been a dramatic deterioration in its business case. There have been increases in capital costs and a number of additional costs that would have to be incurred in order to live up to ministers’ promises for the new line.

The Government’s business case remains flawed, since it still assumes that those travelling on trains have zero productivity, which is increasingly unrealistic with advances in information technology. The additional costs over and above the Government’s estimates include:

  • The HS2 business case includes a total saving of £5.4 billion for reductions to existing services. If those services are not reduced, the cost of the scheme to taxpayers will rise
  • Competition on the route would mean a reduction in revenues of at least £10 billion over the life of the project
  • Building a new line in London to address the expected increase in passenger demand at Euston caused by HS2 (Crossrail 2) is likely to cost at least £10 billion
  • Major infrastructure expenditure needed to provide access to other HS2 stations will cost a further £2 billion
  • Further mitigation of the environmental impact of the route is likely to cost at least an additional £2 billion

 

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“As the projected costs have increased dramatically, the already fragile case for HS2 has completely disintegrated. There are far cheaper and better ways of substantially increasing capacity much more quickly on the route, not least by reducing the number of first class carriages and lengthening the trains. And quite apart from the astronomical and unjustifiable cost to millions of families across the country who would never use HS2, the Government’s own plans show how many towns and cities would in fact be left with a worse service if the line goes ahead. The project should be abandoned now before any more taxpayers’ cash is squandered on what risks being the most expensive white elephant of all time.”
Beware politicians bearing free lunches
Sep 2013 17

There is no such thing as free lunch, especially if it is handed to you by a politician. Nick Clegg, in an announcement during Lib Dem conference, has said all children in reception, year 1 and year 2 – pupils aged between five and seven – will be given hot lunches at school. This is a conference gimmick that is a misleading, but all too typical, attempt from politicians to wade in and pretend they are doing something about the pressure on the finances of struggling families by promising subsidies paid for with other people’s money. Sadly it seems like this policy has already been signed off by the Treasury and will cost taxpayers £600 million a year (you can bet that will rise as the scheme is inevitably expanded).

In the past Nick Clegg has rightly pointed out that universal benefits are both costly and unfair, but that principled opposition to spreading taxpayers’ money around seems to have been forgotten. The problem with schemes like this is that you tax those on low and middle incomes to pay for hand-outs to affluent families. Even when those on modest incomes do receive a universal benefit it’s certainly not free. They’ve paid for it (and all the bureaucracy that comes with it) through higher taxes.

It’s no wonder the Westminster fails to deal with unsustainable levels of Government spending when it is so keen on finding new ways to throw other people’s money at a problem that politicians have created themselves.

If politicians really want to deal with the cost of living crisis then they should stop making life so expensive. That means axing policies that make the family shop more expensive like the Common Agriculture Policy. It means abandoning green energy subsidies that force up energy bills. It means cutting taxes that are too often squandered  to pay for misguided programmes like this latest announcement. There are plenty of ways to deal with the cost of living crisis, but churning even more cash into the money-go-round – paying an army of bureaucrats to take the money away and give it back at enormous cost – doesn’t help anyone.

Ensuring pupils eat healthy and exercise regularly is an important way to improve academic attainment. But the responsibility for that lies in the kitchens of parents up and down the country. Nick Clegg is going to waste hundreds of millions of pounds of your money just for a party conference gimmick.

 

 

Sep 2013 04

In a major new report, the TaxPayers’ Alliance today outlines the next stage for welfare reform in the UK, Work for the Dole. Despite the creation of over three million jobs between 1997 and 2012, the number of people in the UK out of work has remained stubbornly high, even in times of prosperity. Work for the Dole, a programme of mandatory participation in community work and training in return for the continued payment of benefits, is the next step in getting people off welfare and into work. Based on successful programmes across the world, it is estimated the scheme would lead to annual savings of £3.51 billion and help 345,000 people off benefits over time.

Work for the Dole proposes that, after a certain time, anyone claiming the Universal Credit should undertake compulsory activity or – if claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance – activity that they are physically able to do.  It would address the problem, as described recently by Lord Hutton of Furness, of those “who choose consciously not to work “.

Key recommendations:

  • Participants in Work for the Dole would be required to undertake 30 hours per week of either mandatory community work, physical and meaningful attendance at a job search centre; work for a registered charity; recognised training; or work experience.
  • For anyone already in work but claiming benefits, participation in Work for the Dole would top up their working time to at least 30 hours per week.
  • Work search activity would continue alongside the mandatory activity. If placements are with a commercial organisation, then there must be genuine skills development – it cannot simply be free labour for the commercial company.
  • The 30-hour benchmark may be adjusted downwards for people with childcare or similar obligations. For those with young children, pensioners or individuals with a severe disability there will be no requirement at all.
  • Non-compliance with Work for the Dole activity requirements would automatically result in suspension of all Universal Credit payments. This is based on evidence from the U.S. that suggests this is required to make the scheme fully effective

Importantly, the length of time before someone is automatically referred onto the scheme would be dependent on their National Insurance (NI) contributions. Those with a history of paying National Insurance would be referred onto the scheme after up to two years of claiming Universal Credit while those with little or no history of NI contributions would be expected to participate after three months of claiming Universal Credit. This would give more latitude to those who have paid into the system and strengthen the contributory principle in out of work benefits.

The introduction of Work for the Dole would end the ability to subsist on benefits instead of seeking work:

  • It is estimated that 575,000 people would be eligible for referral onto the programme on day one.
  • The cost of initially administering the programme is estimated at £1.05 billion in the first year.
  • The programme should rapidly lead to a gross saving of £3.51 billion per year on an on-going basis and a net saving of £2.46 billion in the first year.
  • Based on similar programmes around the world, 345,000 will come off benefitsover time.
  • Work for the Dole under the Universal Credit umbrella would remove the option of claiming benefits other than JSA and ESA (such as Housing Benefit and the Child Tax Credit) while not seeking work, which is currently possible

Polling has shown that the public overwhelmingly support the idea (net agreement of +75%) that those who can, should do full-time community service for their benefits. Even59 per cent of benefit claimants themselves now think benefits are too high and discourage work. Current reforms as they stand are not enough to fix welfare dependence. Work for the Dole would eliminate a great deal of fraud and provide a powerful incentive to seek a proper job while at the same time helping participants with the experience and credentials needed to get them onto the job ladder.

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

Welfare should be a safety net for people who fall on hard times, not an alternative to working. The Government is improving the incentive to work but they need to go further and remove the option of sitting at home and claiming benefits entirely. Taxpayers rightly expect something back for the enormous amount they pay for out-of-work benefits, at the very least a real commitment to find a job as soon as possible. You should have to work for the dole.

Chris Philp, author of Work for the Dole, said:

“Despite the record number of jobs created in the UK economy in the last decade, welfare dependency remains a problem that costs taxpayers a fortune and ruins lives. Politicians of all sides acknowledge that that the current system encourages welfare dependency. Work for the Dole programmes in other countries have shown that this problem can be beaten and dependency dramatically cut. The public resoundingly back the idea that claimants should contribute for the benefits they receive and it’s time politicians caught up. Work for the Dole is an idea whose time has come.”

Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, former Minister for Welfare Reform, responded to the publication by saying:

“Labour needs seriously to look again at Work for the Dole. The next Labour government must ensure that claimants are not simply left drawing benefit rather than having an offer of work. Benefit payments should help form the pool of resources to fund Labour’s future jobs fund Mark II.”

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