We firmly believe that “there is no such thing as government money; only taxpayers’ money”. Since we were founded in 2004, we have sent tens of thousands of freedom of information requests, scoured thousands of sets of accounts, and quizzed officials to root out wasteful spending at all levels of government.
From cost overruns of major government projects to how much local authorities have spent on cars for mayors’ usage, we have uncovered billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money that is being wasted.
Thanks to our constant pressure, councils must now publish all spending over £500 as well as publish in detail the pay and perks of senior staff.
Every day, this is a major part of the work we do. You can read about specific facets of our War on Waste below.
Every week we cover War on Waste stories in our weekly bulletin and comment frequently on and provide such stories in the media. We reveal the waste stories that continue to happen throughout local and national government, and should keep ministers and councillors awake at night! If you want to follow these stories you can sign up for our weekly bulletin here.
In autumn 2020, we unveiled the Beginner’s Guide to Government Waste, the results of a landmark investigation with the Daily Mail which uncovered £5.6 billion of profligate spending. This included almost £50,000 spent on takeaways by the Department of Health and over £200,000 spent on interior design spending at the Foreign Office.
Over the years, we have produced dozens of research papers on wasteful spending, including:
Four editions of the Bumper Book of Government Waste, since 2004, which have revealed how the government could cut vast swathes of wasteful and unnecessary spending.
- The Public Sector Rich List series, which highlights the most highly paid people in central government departments.
- The Town Hall Rich List series, which expose the most highly paid people in local authorities.
Our bumper War on Waste investigation with the Daily Mail which uncovered £5,577,988,036.64 in waste.
Dozens of smaller research notes on things like local authority middle management pay, empty council-owned commercial properties and the cost of payments to local councillors in allowances.
- War on Waste research notes: woke Whitehall, civil service newspapers, anti-eco civil servants, civil service perks and long lost tech.
We take our grassroots campaigners out right across the country to highlight wasteful spending at the local level.
We often tie in research on a local authority with an action day. For instance, we took the War on Waste to Morecambe after we exposed numerous examples of wasteful spending by Lancaster City Council, just as they were pressing ahead with council tax rises. Between 2016 and 2019 the council spent £3,844,230 on agency and consultancy fees, but will raise council tax by nearly 5 per cent this year. At a time when budgets are squeezed, the council has spent taxpayers' money on completely unnecessary costs, including £5,140 on a performance by a rock band and over £3,000 on Carlsberg lager.
In spring 2022, our campaigning in Havering secured an amendment to the budget which cut councillors’ special allowances by £77,000.
In the summer of 2014, we launched the War on Waste roadshow - a 29-stop, 1,300 mile tour which took in England, Scotland and Wales. We leafleted and talked to local residents about exactly how much of their tax money goes into funding things like empty properties and award ceremonies. We drew attention to prominent examples of waste such as 'The Public' in West Bromwich; an unwanted art gallery which cost taxpayers £72 million and was closed a mere five years after it opened.
You can read about some of our stops here:
We continue to visit towns and cities across the country, so keep an eye out on our events page for upcoming action days. Get in touch if you’d like us to come to your area.