The War on Waste roadshow made its way into the Midlands today with stopovers in Manchester, Stoke-on Trent, Stafford and finally Birmingham.
On a blustery day outside Manchester Town Hall, City Council employees were appalled to discover that hundreds of their colleagues had been handed iPads costing taxpayers almost £200,000, and that the Council had wasted £16,000 on software to monitor what people were saying about them on Twitter. There are plenty of alternatives available – such as the rather cheaper (i.e., free) option of doing it yourself.
Our presence was less well received by two Council employees, the first of whom tried to tell us we needed the permission before setting up “infrastructure” (a plywood table with tablecloth and 2 flags) outside the Town Hall. She eventually conceded that there was no such requirement but said she would need to report the incident to a town hall bureaucrat.
The second employee, apparently a Unison member, was initially a little agitated with our stall, but was delighted to hear that we are strongly against using taxpayers’ money to subsidise theatre and opera. Wasting money in this fashion isn’t a left vs right issue – it’s just common sense.
Then on to Stoke, where residents were horrified to learn that overweight people in the area had been receiving motivational text messages from the Council advising them to “use the stairs” and to “try to eat smaller portions”. This patronising farce cost taxpayers £10,000.
After a brief stop in Stafford, the roadshow rolled on to Birmingham where as we speak TPA staff and volunteers are telling people about the £319,000 Birmingham City Council has used for jet-setting trips to the likes of China, Jamaica, Brazil and Bahrain.
Tomorrow we head to a true shrine of wasteful spending -The Public in West Bromwich – before heading to Chipping Norton to remind the Prime Minister that he desperately needs to wage a War on Waste across the country.
Paying more and more for less and less seems the mantra now for some local council services. South Gloucestershire MP Chris Skidmore took his campaign against a new ‘stealth tax’ launched by his local council to the Houses of Parliament. He spoke in the House of Commons against recent green refuse bin charges. Continue Reading
A clutch of celebrities including Michael Caine, the Arctic Monkeys, Katie Melua and George Michael are said to have sheltered money in the Liberty tax avoidance scheme, according to The Times this morning. The paper also named Take That crooner Gary Barlow, BBC presenter Anne Robinson and former Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Darren Anderton.
The revelations will no doubt cause particular problems for those among the scheme’s participants who have previously boasted about how they enjoy paying tax. For example, Katie Melua was nominated for ChristianAid’s ‘Tax Superhero Award’ after she said that she was happy to pay tax because she had “seen what it is like living in a country where people don’t pay tax and have poor services in terms of health and education“, claiming she paid “nearly half of what comes to me in taxes“. Continue Reading
Yesterday marked a busy day on the War on Waste Roadshow, stopping off to spread the word four times as we made our way north to Newcastle.
A quick drive up the A19 from our hotel in Scunthorpe saw us arrive in Hull just in time for Andy Silvester, our Campaign Manager, to do a live interview for BBC Radio Humberside before the rest of the team were joined by Andrew Allison, the TPA’s former grassroots co-ordinator. In glorious early morning sunshine the various placards, signs and flags we’ve packed into the back of the minibus looked very good indeed.
From there it was on to York, setting up outside the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms, where we were joined by a number of activists to spread the word. Residents were less than thrilled with the revelation that new furniture at the County Council offices cost some £1.4 million.
A short drive took us to the North East and the charming market town of Yarm, where the wasteful spending of half a million pounds on “improving” the parking on the High Street did nothing to aid our pursuit of a parking space! Once finally installed, the highest number of supporters and activists so far helped us hand out leaflets and raise awareness of issues in Yarm and across the North East. Despite the increasing drizzle, we soldiered on to Newcastle with a brief leafleting stop at the foot of Grey’s Monument.
Fingers crossed for another successful day – we head off for Carlisle in ten minutes!
The War on Waste moved on this afternoon, taking in the centre of Nottingham as well as the constituency offices of both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
The team set up shop outside Nottingham Council House on Old Market Square, joined by the ever-inquisitive cameras of BBC East Midlands. A number of supporters joined us, handing out leaflets and spreading the word. The main issue for most taxpayers was the more than £4,000 spent on the rental of a Christmas tree. No-one would begrudge anybody a bit of festive cheer in the office, but quite how it managed to cost as much as a luxury cruise to the Caribbean is beyond us.
From there it was on to two further stops – Sheffield Hallam, and Doncaster North. The Deputy Prime Minister has had a mixed record when it comes to waste, supporting the work of the Cabinet Office to crack down on procurement mistakes but then handing out millions on a variety of headline-grabbing policies. And with a general election just 10 months away, taxpayers will be hoping that Ed Miliband and the Labour Party are as committed to cutting out waste in the public sector as we are.
It’s onwards and upwards tomorrow – to Hull and York, and then on to Stockton-on-Tees and finishing up in Newcastle. You can find the exact timings, and the plan for the next few days, here.