By Kieran Neild-Ali, grassroots assistant
The TaxPayers’ Alliance receives amazing support from thousands of people. Whether it's small business owners angry at business rates, students campaigning to axe the BBC licence fee, a potential homeowner worried about stamp duty or a pensioner suffering under another inflation-busting council tax rise - the TPA is a voice for taxpayers across the nation. Despite our positive platform, the organisation does have its critics. We are lambasted by angry activists for our supposed position on the political spectrum. The TPA is mislabelled as ‘right-wing’ and incorrectly said to be on the side of big business and the Conservative Party.
Today is Positive Twitter Day, a day when the usual screaming matches on social media should come to and end - if only for a day. In that spirit, we want to offer an olive branch to all our detractors and explain why we believe there is nothing corporatist or partisan about eradicating wasteful government spending.
The TPA is a proud non-partisan organisation, holding all political parties to account whenever they waste taxpayers’ money. In our 16 year history, we have always called out wasteful spending - at national and local level - no matter which party is responsible. We cannot be clearer on this: if the ruling Conservative Party misspends taxpayers’ money, we call them out. The same would apply to Labour, the Liberal Democrats or whichever party is in charge of the public purse. At a local level we frequently chastise parties of all political colours for their profligacy.
Most recently, we have critiqued the Conservative government’s handling of procurement and public sector contracts during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was squandered on private companies that failed to provide adequate PPE. We called on the government to stick to procurement guidelines to ensure contracts awarded to private companies gave the taxpayer maximum value for money. The Labour Party joined us in seeing it was important to hold the government to account for this wasteful spending and has asked for an inquest into the purchase of duff equipment. For our part, we’ll be damned if we’re going to let politicians off the hook for that sort of waste, given as much as £15bn has been allocated to spend on PPE.
The national debt is another non-partisan issue, for which we have consistently poured scorn on both Conservative and Labour governments. In 2010, the TPA toured the UK with a seven metre long, lorry-mounted digital debt clock - warning the public and urging politicians to deal with the UK’s astronomical debt. Now, after years of Tory government, the national debt remains untenable (even before this terrible crisis). We have pulled no punches in highlighting the debt crisis - no matter who occupies Number 10.
On numerous occasions we have directly opposed the high spending and government waste by both Labour and Conservatives. We have unashamedly stood against HS2, a white elephant project created by Labour and implemented by the Conservatives. We called for the original budget of £56 billion, (now expected to be £106 billion, but we bet it will be up to £150bn) to be spent on alternative local transport projects. The Great British Transport Competition gave everyone a chance to submit proposals for local transport ideas that would help their communities. We are still calling on the Conservative government to implement those ideas, and scrap this expensive vanity project.
But you wouldn’t know any of that from just looking at social media. That’s usually the forum where angry keyboard warriors from both sides gather to sling insults and smears at their opponents. But today, on Positive Twitter Day, perhaps we might see there is plenty that we can all agree on.
Everyone who understands the burden that taxes place on hardworking families should agree that advocating for less government waste is common sense. Whether it’s a Labour mayor moving his HQ to save money on office costs, or a Conservative minister promising to scrap a bungling quango, cutting out waste is not a partisan issue. Like us or not, our policy recommendations aim to make the lives of every hard-working taxpayer easier. In fact, our polling suggests that many ideas considered beyond the pale by Twitter resonate strongly with working class voters. The electorate wants lower simpler taxes, less government waste and to hold public spending to account. It's not about left or right, or who you support in the latest social media row of the day: our mission is about ensuring taxpayers get value for money.
That's why we are so proud to take our mission outside of the Westminster bubble. The TPA has a wide network of volunteers across the country, fighting against wasteful spending. Our staff travel the length and breadth of the UK meeting people who are concerned about big-spending and high-tax councils. We’ve campaigned to protect the lowest earners from unfair workplace parking levies in Bristol, helped our supporters fight back against council tax hikes in Herefordshire and in Blackburn we exposed the council’s bus station blunder.
The TPA is a broad church which campaigns on a range of issues which go beyond blue and red rosettes. It's a coalition of taxpayers from John O’Groats to Lands End. There is nothing wrong with wanting taxpayers’ cash to be spent wisely at all levels of government. It is only right that when the administration of the day does drop a clanger, we are all united in holding them to account.
On a day of Twitter reconciliation we urge everyone - whatever your political leanings - if you want to see your taxes spent wisely and pointless waste come to an end, join our campaign today or follow us in our fight for everyday taxpayers. That should be something we can all agree on.