Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tax-Funding On The Shopping Channel

Driving through England's green and pleasant the other day, Tyler once again found himself shouting at the car radio.

The object of his spluttering harangue was an interview with Will Day, the new head of the Sustainable Development Commission. Well, we say "interview" - it was actually more like a paid-for slot on the Shopping Channel, with Mr Day being given a warm and unchallenged opportunity to present his wares (listen again here).

When Tyler returned home he looked up the Commission's website. Founded in 2000, its first head was old Etonian the Hon Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt. He flounced out earlier this year after the government finally faced facts on the urgent need for new nuclear power stations.

His replacement is another member of the Prog Con ruling elite: Day is the son of a diplomat, with a career in international charities and - yes, you guessed it - the BBC.

Tyler also discovered that the Commission is fully funded by government and costs us £4m pa.

And its role?

To lobby government.

Yes, you heard that right. The government gives it £4m pa - of our friggin' money - so that it can get itself lobbied to tighten our eco screws even further.

Or as the Commission puts it:

"Through advocacy, advice and appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy."

They are tax-funded government lobbyists.

And you know the really shocking thing?

The Sustainable Development Commission is not alone. Every year we taxpayers are shelling out millions so that the government can lobby itself for more stuff that many MANY of us do not want.

Now the TaxPayers' Alliance has added up the damage. And in a paper published this morning, they provide a detailed 54 page analysis of just who gets what.

On a very conservative estimate, the overall total in 2007-08 was £38m, including:
  • £4.9m on hiring political consultancies
  • £23m on trade associations (Local Government Association, Association of Police Authorities and NHS Confederation)
  • £1.8m on health policy campaigns, including £515,000 paid to Alcohol Concern, £191,000 paid to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and £130,000 paid to the Family Planning Association.
  • £6.7m on environmental policy campaigns, including our friends at the Sustainable Development Commission, Friends of the Earth, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and numerous other groups
  • £1.6m on usual suspects Prog Con think tanks – Demos, the New Economics Foundation; the Institute for Public Policy Research and the New Local Government Network

Teeth grinding aside, TPA Research Director Matt Sinclair explains precisely why it is so wrong:

  • 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.

Spot on.

We need to remember it for the next time one of these tax-funded lobbyists lectures us on the tax-funded £3.5bn pa Prog Con Shopping Channel.

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