Many organisations and charities which have a focus on public policy – such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Greenpeace – operate with no taxpayers’ money, relying solely on the donations of private individuals and groups.,
A great deal of others receive funding from public bodies. Despite benefitting from this, these organisations often campaign for political outcomes, and lobby against policies of the elected government. The 2020 TaxPayers’ Alliance paper Taxpayer funded lobbying and political campaigning found that public bodies gave over £39.6 million to political lobbying and campaigning organisations.
By receiving funds from public bodies, taxpayers’ are effectively being forced to fund views they may completely disagree with. In some cases, organisations have gone further than just lobbying and have undertaken actions such as street protests.
Taxpayer funding of lobbying and political campaigning has a number of negative effects:
It distorts decision making in favour of the interests and ideological preoccupations of a narrow political elite.
It slows adjustments in the direction of policy in reaction to new evidence or circumstances.
It increases political apathy among the public.
Taxpayers are forced to fund views they may seriously disagree with.
This paper highlights how taxpayers’ money is being allocated to lobbying organisations with their own agendas rather than services that benefit the community. This is not an exhaustive list of money received by politicised organisations and dispersed through public bodies, but is a collection of key examples to show the scale and type of public funding being given.
26 organisations which lobby for change in public policy received a total of £49,011,318 from 192 public sector bodies between 2018-19 and 2020-21.
Six government departments provided Migrant Help, Stonewall, Refugee Action, Hope Not Hate and Instalaw with £7,694,408 in grants from 2018-19 to 2020-21. Four of these organisations recently signed an open letter criticising the new Rwanda plan for asylum seekers. The fifth, Instalaw, issued judicial review proceedings in April 2022 challenging the legality of the Rwanda immigration deal. The government departments who provided these grants were: the Cabinet Office; Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Department for Education; Department for International Development; Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government; and the Home Office.
NHS Confederation received £28,456,451 in grants and loans from 13 public sector bodies from 2018-19 to 2020-21 – the highest amount given to any organisation. They continue to campaign for the public to keep wearing face masks with their #NotTooMuchToMask campaign.
Gendered Intelligence received £287,954 from 18 public organisations from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport provided the largest amount, contributing £251,748 over 2018-19 and 2019-20. Gendered Intelligence works in the policy and media sphere to promote trans rights, sending over 1,500 letters to MPs urging them to allow those under 16 years of age to consent to bodily medical treatments.
Age UK received £6,591,155 from six government departments from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport provided the largest amount, contributing £3,195,184 over 2018-19 and 2019-20. Age UK advertises the fact it works with over 100 MPs from across parliament and has called for the pension triple lock to be retained.
- The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) received £2,092,358 from 129 councils from 2018-19 to 2020-21. Merton council provided the largest amount of funding, contributing £184,593 from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The ADPH is a member-led organisation that makes sure “the voices of the directors of public health are being heard by policymakers”. Significant amounts of councils' directors of public health – though not all – choose to have memberships of this association, paid for by council funds.
- The government department to provide the largest amount of funding was the Department of Health and Social Care, supplying £30,340,668 in grants to five organisations: NHS Confederation; the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Age UK; Action on Smoking and Health; and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
- The devolved administration to provide the largest amount of funding was the Welsh Government, providing £584,194 in grants to Action on Smoking and Health Wales, NHS Confederation, and the Royal College of General Practitioners.
- The university to provide the largest amount of funding was the University of Oxford, providing £209,883 in grants to the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Action on Smoking and Health, Gendered Intelligence, and the British Medical Association.