Smoking out waste in Wales

With the Welsh public sector budget deficit currently at 20% of GDP (compared to around 5% for the UK as a whole),  you would assume that the Welsh Government would be mindful of wasting taxpayers’ money on pointless public sector jobs.  But no, this week another costly vacancy supported by the public purse appeared with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Wales advertising for the lucrative role of CEO.

ASH Wales describes itself as ‘the leading voluntary organisation in Wales tackling smoking and tobacco use,’ which is all well and good.  However, the charity clearly seeks to influence government policy.  Indeed, the blurb on the application describes the future CEO as being ‘involved in lobbying and advocacy work’ with a mission to achieve a ‘smoke free Wales’.  What’s more, the post is specifically described as “a Welsh Government funded post” – in other words, the Welsh Government is stumping up £135,000  of taxpayers’ money (at £45,000 per year for 3 years) to fund this lobbying. 

By funding a charity like this whose aim is to change government policy, the Welsh Government is effectively using taxpayers’ cash to lobby itself!   As the Institute of Economic Affairs highlighted in a paper published in 2012, these charities can become ‘sock puppets’ where government funding of campaigning charities subverts democracy and debases the concept of charity.

This position is yet another example of an unnecessary public sector job.  As Eric Pickles said last month in a statement, ‘using taxpayers’ funds to lobby government wastes public money and undermines transparency.  If external groups are lucky enough to receive grants or win contracts with taxpayers’ money, it shouldn't be spent on lobbying for more taxpayers’ money or more red tape.’

The organisation chart found in the ASH Wales applicant brief illustrates 17 employees – are they all funded by the Welsh Government?  If so, this somewhat undermines the claims by Jamie Matthews and Jen Thornton in the Appendix Overview pages that ASH is ‘an independent Welsh Charity’.   Dr Steve Macey, Policy and Research Officer goes on to say he enjoys ‘being able to influence the policy agenda in Wales’.  If the Government are his paymasters then what else would you expect and, if not, why fund his salary out of taxpayers’ money when he would provide the information anyway?

Looks like another expensive non-job smokescreen – with the taxpayer coughing up.

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