By: Elliot Keck, investigations campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance
March 2023 was the wettest on record. It must come as a relief, then, to council staff that their employers are so generous when it comes to working from home. Why go out in the cold and the rain when you can work (or not work) from bed?.
While this arrangement might be appealing for council staff, it’s a terrible deal for taxpayers, as we revealed in an investigation published exclusively in the Mail on Sunday. Our in-depth analysis of council home-working found that 60 per cent of council desks lay empty across September to November 2022. Meanwhile, the number of council workers registered as working from home has risen from 1,442 to 5,153. Now, we are somewhat ambivalent about whether staff should be forced into the office. If they can do the job properly working from home, so be it. But billing local residents for empty office space is inexcusable, particularly when councils are hiking rates and complaining about depleted reserves. Council headquarters don’t come cheap. Use it or lose it.
The fight over the Mayor of London’s plan to expand ULEZ rolled on last month. Sadiq Khan has been keen to tell us that this won’t hit the poorest, but our research shows otherwise. Our investigation published in the Daily Express concludes that it’s the poorest London boroughs who are currently paying the most fines. Particularly concerningly, it is the poorest London boroughs which are paying fines for the Low Emissions Zone, which currently represents the boundary to which ULEZ is being expanded, suggesting that once ULEZ is expanded, it will hit them the most. Why is this scheme going ahead you might wonder? Well, it makes TfL a pretty penny.
Our investigation into the redundancy gravy train continued in March, after some howlers in February. Councils in London paid out an eye-popping £14 million in golden goodbyes in 2022, with Hammersmith and Haringey handing out payments north of £150,000. You can find out how much each London council paid (or at least, the ones who provided us the information) in MyLondon. Cornwall Council topped all the charts when it came to payouts from a single council, with a £4.4 million bill in 2022, as we revealed in CornwallLive.
Regular readers will know that we always try to include some NHS waste in this blog. With doctors striking for better pay and services suffering as a result, taxpayers understandably want to see the health service crackdown on waste. Well in March, we revealed that on postage alone, NHS Trusts spent over £112 million in one year. Our research, published in The Sun, found that the spending had increased by 17 per cent compared to the previous year.
With all of this, it’s a wonder that ministers managed to find the cash for the British Youth Parliament. But find it they did - £235,000 of it, in fact. Read about our research in Guido Fawkes.
Keep your eyes peeled for more council waste next month, including a bombshell story about ambulances delayed by low-traffic neighbourhoods…
If you suspect public bodies of wasting money and want us to investigate, let me know at [email protected]