The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) was launched by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum in early 2004 to speak for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government. No party was standing up for taxpayers and nearly all politicians were committed to bigger government, higher spending and secretive deals behind closed doors.
The TPA sought to challenge this status quo. The United States, Germany, France and Italy all had groups dedicated to defending taxpayers against new taxes, exposing waste and putting forward the case for spending restraint. The TPA was set up to ensure that British taxpayers were no longer ignored by politicians.
The importance of our message was recognised at an early stage. In 2006 we won the ConservativeHome ‘One to Watch’ award, and the Bumper Book of Government Waste was given the Atlas Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award in 2007. In December 2007, the TPA won the Stockholm Network’s prestigious Golden Umbrella Award for Innovation and in 2008 was named ‘Pressure Group of the Year’ by the readers of Iain Dale’s Diary. In 2010, the TPA was awarded the Atlas Templeton Freedom Award for pioneering work on public sector fiscal transparency.
In November 2013, we won two more prestigious honours. Public Affairs News recognised the success of MashBeerTax with their “Best In-House Campaign of the Year” award. On the same evening, the Atlas Network in America announced that a distinguished panel of judges – including Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute and author Johan Norberg – had awarded the TPA the Templeton Freedom Award for the 2020 Tax Commission’s final report The Single Income Tax.
Announcing the award, Atlas CEO Brad Lips said that the
“TaxPayers’ Alliance has become such a force of nature in a relatively short amount of time. From impeccable research to clear messaging, they've really raised the bar for think tanks.”
The financial crisis in 2008-9 focused minds on how government was spending taxpayers’ money. Politicians were forced to face the consequences of years of unrestrained public spending and unsustainable levels of debt. Many of the policies we recommended were implemented, including a public sector pay freeze, the abolition of many quangos, an end to local government sponsored lobbying, and extensive welfare reform. We ensured that spending decisions were transparent and that taxpayers were not unfairly forced to bear the consequences of politicians’ mistakes.
Another important moment for the campaign came when the MPs’ expenses scandal broke in 2009. Rapacious politicians were binging on taxpayers’ money when they thought no one was looking. We were vocal in uncovering these outrages and calling for both reform of MPs expenses and prosecution of politicians guilty of committing criminal offences. The TPA’s message that taxpayers’ money was being wasted, that taxpayers should know how their money was being spent, and that politicians were ignoring taxpayers’ wishes became ever-more significant.
A new model of award-winning campaigning
Although still a relatively young campaign, the TPA has steadily gained strength and influence. With over 90,000 grassroots supporters, we have exposed public sector waste and unsustainable spending across the country. In 2010 we launched the Debt Clock, which travelled around the UK to publicise how soaring public debt will burden future generations with an unenviable inheritance. In 2011, we brought together activists and supporters at the Rally Against Debt to highlight the necessity of public spending cuts. We have consistently stood against rising taxes and government waste.
In 2013, South West Coordinator Tim Newark launched a campaign to scrap the duty escalator on cider and stop almost a quarter of the price you pay for a pint of cider going to the taxman. The campaign received support from a number of South West MPs, and Tim and local supporters were been busy collecting signatures for a petition which was presented to the Treasury. The result of his campaign was evident in the 2014 budget which froze duty on cider. This was further continued in the 2015 Budget which cut cider duty by 2p along with cuts for Beer and a freeze for wine.
In 2015 our Public Sector Rich List, our most comprehensive single piece of work on public sector pay, perks and pay-offs, was published. In 2016 the Enterprise Act received Royal Assent, legally ending the six figure pay-off with a new cap of £95,000 to any person leaving the public sector.
Transparency has always been at the heart of our campaign. We are a leading proponent of Google government and have argued that taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. Our pressure on behalf of taxpayers has ensured that all levels of government must disclose information about public sector pay and spending. All parties are now committed to public sector transparency and the TPA has helped win that battle.
Britain’s tax system still needs to be reformed. The UK has a complicated and opaque tax code, ordinary taxpayers face increasingly high and unfair taxes, and politicians are failing to implement policies that would kick-start economic growth. But lower taxes will only be possible if we reduce spending. Politicians spend almost half of our national income and far too much is wasted.
The TPA will continue to press for fundamental reform, using the 2020 Tax Commission and the Spending Plan as blueprints. But the UK faces new challenges, and so does the TPA. Whilst the deficit has been reduced, the national debt still hangs around the neck of every current and future taxpayer. And growth is sluggish thanks to the burden of too much regulation and too many taxes. The TPA will be pushing for pro-growth policies that help businesses thrive and grow
The vote to leave the European Union represents an unfrozen moment, and the TPA is campaigning to push politicians to make the most of it. This means, for example, shaking off bad projects (such as HS2), push for more ambitious ways to improve productivity in the UK, as well as to embrace the opportunities Brexit will present to save taxpayers money and reduce costs on consumers.
As part of these exciting possibilities facing the country, the TPA is also now the leading voice encouraging the automation of large swathes of the public sector. Speeding up the adoption of automation in national and local government will save billions, improve services and create more interesting jobs.
Finally, the return of hard left politics to the debate means that the arguments against the dangers of socialism have to be rejuvenated and made anew for the next generation. Such progress that has been made since the TPA was founded in 2004 are all at risk in a socialist system, with further progress blocked by trade unions and reckless borrowing the only option available when things inevitably go wrong.
Above all, the TPA will continue to fight to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers.