Monday, February 21, 2005

ippr money bonfire

I’ve been trawling through the ippr- institute of public policy research- website (yes, I know all about capital letters, but ippr seeks to promote equal opportunity for letters of all cases, whatever their ethnic background or sexual orientation). Anyway, I came across something I'd previously missed- their 30 December contribution to the law and order debate:

“The design of police stations is a barrier to good public service…they have failed to keep pace with changing times.

The report recommends…turning the…police station…into a modern, open plan, user-friendly public building…Japanese Kobans, modern Tardis-style police boxes…every police force should have a Design Champion…architectural competitions for design, and initiatives like… removing screens and making stables and kennels accessible.”

Japanese Kobans- isn’t that brilliant? Given a big enough budget, I bet that bloke with the big frilly shirt off the telly could come up with some even more fabulous innovations.

The punters would probably respect the station’s new blond wood flooring by not throwing up over it. And there’s a fair chance they wouldn’t abuse the stylish open plan ambience by stabbing the desk sergeant.

All quite amusing…if it wasn’t for the fact that the ippr is Tony’s favourite think-tank. The same tank that spawned a thousand New Labour invertebrates including Patricia Hewitt, David Milliband, Baroness Amos…I’ll stop there- my nose is bleeding.

So given we’ve already seen the Met unveil a pricey logo revamp, these make-over copshops- an absolute snip at say a couple of mill each- are a virtual certainty.

Which reminded me that for some time I’ve been meaning to get to the bottom of ippr’s own finances. How much of it is funded by the taxpayer?

It should be easy to find out because as a registered charity it has to file financial returns with the Charities Commission. The latest declares an annual income of £3 million in 2003, not all government money, but a 200 per cent increase since New Labour came to power. Not bad on its own, and I have an odd feeling there’s a lot more besides, outside the charity.

Because back in 1997, within three months of Labour’s election victory, the ippr incorporated a new wholly owned subsidiary- ‘Public Policy Research Associates Ltd’- to carry out commercially commissioned research. And because it’s not a charity, the Charities Commission do not publish details of its finances.

I haven’t yet managed to track down the killer facts, but I’m guessing PPRA Ltd is a nice little earner. After all, under this government, spending on consultancy services has exploded to reach almost £2 billion annually. And a healthy chunk of it seems to be going to the commercial spin-offs of Westminster think-tanks.

Just last year we learned that Adam Smith International- of all people- had been paid £34 million by the Department for International Development between 1998 and 2003. Yes, yes, I know. ASI- as in the Adam Smith Institute - say they’re now completely separate from ASI- as in Adam Smith International. But either way, ASI are not natural soulmates of New Labour, so it naturally makes you wonder how much dosh reaches those bits of the Westminster village that are.

I really must find out.

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