Friday, June 01, 2007

Tax Funding For IPPR

You meet all types in here
A few years back Tyler tried to unravel the finances of the Institute for Public Policy Research, NuLabour's fave thinktank (see this blog). It wasn't easy, because like many Westminster thinktanks, they have a rather opaque corporate structure. The basic entity is a charity, required to make detailed financial returns to the Charities Commission (see here for latest return), but much of the money, including that for government research/consultancy contracts, actually flows through a set of private operating companies ranged around it. And there is no detailed consolidation.

My purpose was to discover how much funding they're getting from us taxpayers. I suspected it must be a lot, especially when I discovered that in 1997, within three months of Labour’s election victory, the ippr incorporated a new wholly owned non-charitable subsidiary- ‘Public Policy Research Associates Ltd’- to carry out commercially commissioned research. Their other main subsidiary is IIPR Trading.

Leafing through their Charities Commission return, you can see that the £3.4m pa charity itself lists £2.0m worth of projects ("restricted funds") many of which look awfully like they'd be government funded. But we're not told, and unfortunately, I ran out of energy before I'd tracked down the facts.

Now Tory MP Oliver Heald has asked a whole load of PQs to get the information from the other end- the government departments which are actually paying. And totting it all up, he's so far got to £1,048,679.

Frankly, that's a lot less than I'd have expected, and you're left wondering what's really going on.

I'm very naive in these matters, so I'm perplexed.

Other much more cynical types have scoffed that I'm looking at it entirely the wrong way round. I should be asking the cash for access question, so vividly exposed in the case of those egregious lobbying firms (see this blog).

But shurreeellyy respected firms like Accenture, BP, BT, Centrica, Deloitte, GlaxoSmithKline, HBOS, PriceWaterhouse, Shell, Unilever etc etc wouldn't fund ippr research just so they could earn brownie points and quality time with government ministers. Would they?

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