By Benjamin Elks
The last twelve months have been tough on the taxpayers, with record levels of spending and tax rises across the board. Through it all, the TaxPayers Alliance has almost been a lone voice. We’ve challenged the fashionable idea that higher spending (and higher taxes to pay for it) is the answer to all of our woes, shining a light on waste at all levels of government.
As 2021 comes to a close, our team can attest to the fact that fighting for a fairer deal for taxpayers is an all-year-round effort.
In January, our researcher Scott Simmonds wrote about the punishing effects of business rates on those firms still trying to recover from the pandemic. Scott highlighted the rapid increases seen in recent years - ten per cent in ten years! Reform is long overdue for this outdated system.
In February, research fellow Rory Meakin used his blog to remind us all that motorists paying less tax as they move to more efficient vehicles should be celebrated as a policy success. Sadly, the government seems to be simply focused on finding new ways to hammer drivers and replace this lost revenue.
As we moved into March (and neared a year since the declaration of the pandemic), we took a look at how the NHS (like any mammoth organisation) does not always spend its money in the most efficient manner. We revealed that, behind the hardworking frontline staff that we all clapped in the streets, taxpayer cash is being funnelled away from frontline services to propping up trade unions. We’ll continue to call out the ludicrous situation with this taxpayer-funded ‘facility time’.
In April, with fears of a post-pandemic employment crisis, our media campaign manager Danielle Boxall took a look at some of the non-jobs available across the public sector. As our Town Hall Rich List previously showed, there are plenty of opportunities with salaries over £100K! Unfortunately, a number of the roles we identified can at best be described as woke non-jobs and, at worst, an egregious waste of taxpayers’ money.
In May, Steve Reynolds, owner of the Stagg Inn in Titley, guest wrote a blog looking at the impact of the temporary VAT cut for businesses like his. Steve pointed out that the forced closure of hospitality venues had caused around 10,000 licensed premises to close their doors permanently and cost 355,000 jobs in hospitality. The VAT cut for food was a helpful boost to pubs and demonstrated the benefits that tax cuts can bring.
Following the Welsh assembly elections, in June TPA researcher Tom Ryan looked into a proposal from the Welsh government for a Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI has been trialed around the world, with less than impressive outcomes. Wales needs effective policy-making that doesn’t waste taxpayers’ money, not a UBI that threatens to do more harm than good.
The BBC released their annual report in July and our grassroots campaign manager Harry Fone revealed the good, the bad, and the ugly. Auntie’s disconnect from her audience was exposed in figures showing average salaries at the Beeb were 83 per cent higher than the median earnings across the UK. Let’s not forget that these pay packets and perks are picked from the pockets of pensioners and taxpayers through the licence fee - a situation that needs to come to an end.
In August, we examined the role of local referenda and council tax rises. Introduced by the Coalition Government, a local referendum is required if a council wants to raise tax above the level set by parliament. Instead, councils simply tend to increase taxes as much as they can without triggering a referendum. We looked at what can be done to protect local taxpayers from these stealth increases.
Taxpayers were hit with the news of plans to increase National Insurance in September, supposedly to help fund social care. Naturally, the TPA team leapt into action to highlight the problems and costs of raising NI, and found some interesting remarks in the parliamentary archives - from the PM himself! In April 2002, the then MP for Henley Boris Johnson rightly argued, “National Insurance increases are regressive” - and we couldn’t agree more. Boris, we preferred your earlier work…
With National Dessert Day falling in October, our digital campaign manager Joe Ventre wrote about the growing list of taboo treats officials seem determined to stop us enjoying. Whether it be fast food, fizzy drinks, milkshakes or meat; whatever takes your fancy, you can bet there’s a government health official looking for a way to tax it.
In November, our operations director Sara Rainwater wrote about her disdain for Insurance Premium Tax (IPT). IPT is a tax on responsibility. Whether you’re taking out pet insurance to protect against vet fees and save a much-loved pet, or simply insuring your car or home, the taxman takes his cut. Insurance Premium Tax hits those trying to do the right thing, and it’s about time this pernicious tax was cut.
Lastly, in December, TPA policy analyst Darwin Friend looked at the government's proposals for reporting subsidies. TPA analysis showed that 64 per cent of subsidies handed out by government wouldn’t have to be reported under the new post-Brexit proposals. We have always believed that all public spending should be as transparent as possible, and government subsidies are no exception.
As we look ahead to 2022, we will continue to fight relentlessly for hard-pressed taxpayers across the country and make the case for lower, simpler taxes and better public services.
From all of us at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, from our family to yours, we wish you a happy and prosperous new year!