There have been a few stories recently highlighting that the taxpayer funded politics we uncovered in a report last year is still going strong:
- Robert Halfon MP challenged the amount of taxpayers' money going to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, writing for ConservativeHome here. They get heavily involved in contentious political issues and aren't shy about their opinions. I set out the limitations of one political intervention they've made here.
- Simon Clark, from the smokers' lobby group Forest, wrote on ConservativeHome about the amount of money going to anti-smoking campaigns who lobby the Government. I don't know about some of the groups his research looks at, like No Smoking Day, but ASH are an outright political campaign. They lobby for changes in the law and it is outrageous that taxpayers' money is being spent supporting private political agendas. Proposals like a ban on displaying cigarettes in shops will create significant costs for small businesses and there should be a fair debate over them, one side can't enjoy a massive advantage funded by taxpayers who may not agree with them.
- The Local Government Association have received an award for being the "trade body of the year". There are loads of trade bodies for every kind of business from the Airport Operators Association to the National Association of Stable Staff. One of the key roles for those kinds of organisations is to represent their political interests, that's why the award was given out by Public Affairs News. So why exactly are local authorities allowed to use taxpayers' money to pay an organisation to represent their political interests? Lots of taxpayers don't agree with them when they defend against our attacks on bloated publicity budgets, middle management and high pay at councils, after all.
Taxpayer funded politics is unfair and undemocratic. It needs to end. It is vitally important that the Government follow up on the excellent move by Eric Pickles to stop councils and quangos in his department hiring lobbyists by stopping funding for political groups.