Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Extent of Government Funded Lobbying Revealed

A new report from those excellent people at the Tax Payers' Alliance has revealed that taxpayers are paying £38 million for the government to lobby itself. The report, Taxpayer funded lobbying and political campaigning reveals the extent of taxpayer funded lobbying and political campaigning in the UK. The Conservatives have promised to bring this culture to an end. The TPA press release says...
The report is a conservative estimate of the total spend because does not include the huge amounts spent by councils and other public sector bodies on publicity, a certain proportion of which goes on lobbying. Instead, it focuses on the amounts spent hiring external lobbying and public affairs support:
• Public sector organisations spent nearly £4.9 million on hiring political consultancies. More than twice the amount found in earlier research by the Conservative Party.
• 77 public sector organisations were found to be spending on political consultancies, the biggest spender being Scottish Enterprise, which spent over £1 million.
• 14 consultancies received more than £100,000 in payments from public sector organisations, the largest being Stratagem, which received £876,121.
• 3 trade associations have a combined taxpayer funded income of more than £23 million (Local Government Association, Association of Police Authorities and NHS Confederation).
The report also looks at the amount of taxpayers' money given by public sector organisations (including the EU) to nominally independent groups, whose primary focus is campaigning for policy change, including political campaigns, lobby groups, think tanks and charities:
• Nearly £1.8 million is spent 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.
• Environmental policy campaigns received over £6.7 million, including funding for the Sustainable Development Commission, Friends of the Earth, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and numerous other groups.
• Using Freedom of Information requests to key quangos and government departments, the report found £1.6 million in taxpayer funding for major think tanks – Demos, the New Economics Foundation; the Institute for Public Policy Research and the New Local Government Network.
• The New Economics Foundation, which was paid £601,518 in 2007-08, is responsible for the Happy Planet Index, which places Saudi Arabia and Burma above the United Kingdom and Sweden in terms of “achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources”.
• Some of these organisations make misleading claims about their funding. For example, the Institute of Alcohol Studies claims “We are lucky in being one of the few organisations that do not depend on the Government or the alcohol industry for funds – so that we can be an independent voice on alcohol policy.” They have received taxpayers' money directly and through the Alliance House Foundation.

Funding of lobbying and political campaigning by government bodies has a number of negative effects:
• It distorts the public policy process in favour of the interests and perspectives of a narrow political elite.
• It slows adjustments in the direction of policy in response to changing circumstances.
• It increases political apathy among the public, particularly because taxpayers are forced to fund views they may seriously disagree with.
The solution proposed is simple:

1. Taxpayer funding of lobbying and political campaigning should be entirely abolished, building on the example set by the Byrd Amendment in the United States.

2. Full transparency of all public spending should be implemented, to reassure taxpayers that none of their money is being diverted by stealth.

Hear, hear. Some companies and organisations, whose whole raison d'etre is to lobby government get a huge proportion of their income from the taxpayer. If they genuinely have a cause they should raise that money themselves and not rely on the state to provide it.

Download the full TPA report HERE.

47 comments:

londonmuslim said...

The Tax Avoiders Alliance

captainff said...

As well as promising to cull QUANGOS is it time for the Tories to promise to root out fakecharities too?

Anonymous said...

The EU Commission does this a lot. The EU consumer pressure group (BEUC), for example, is funded by the very Commission that it is supposed to be lobbying. A lot of other groups are from the same narrow interest. So whether we like it or not, the Commission taxes us (try voting against them) and whieteher we like it or not give the money to pressure groups that spend it on campaigns that we may or may not agree with - all in our name. Incidentally, BEUC etc rarely fall out with the people that fund them.

TomTom said...

You could add Barnardos which used to be a charity yet seems to have a huge proportion of its funding from the Government. The Muslim Council of Britain, Asylum Groups...and don't forget the Government Slush Fund - the Lottery - and how funds there are diverted to political lobbying.

Take a look at the Local Govt Assoc and ask why ratepayers are funding lobbyists employed by their Council to lobby National Govt funded by their taxes !

Why does the BBC have lobbyists in Westminster ?

Why are asylum-seekers funded with Legal Aid to fight cases through to the HoL ?

Alan Douglas said...

iain, they've nationalised the claque !

–noun
1. a group of persons hired to applaud an act or performer.
2. a group of sycophants.
Origin:
1860–65; < F, deriv. of claquer to clap

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

Looks like the TPA got it wrong big style! Their attck on Scottish Enterprise as one of the biggest spenders is completely incorrect!! See Herald article below from today:

Pressure group demands a ban on public bodies hiring lobbyists
ROBBIE DINWOODIE, Chief Scottish Political Correspondent August 04 2009
All public bodies should be banned from hiring lobbyists and political consultants, a pressure group has claimed after uncovering £38m in such spending.

But there was embarrassment when their main target, Scottish Enterprise, turned out to be innocent of most of the charges. The Taxpayers' Alliance claimed the £38m spent by public bodies on lobbying and political campaigning last year was comparable to the spending of the three main UK parties as the 2005 General Election.

But the figures were slightly out, particularly in relation to Scottish Enterprise, which it was claimed spent more than £1m on political lobbying - around one-fifth of the whole UK total.

That turned out to be based on a wrong spelling. A spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said: "The Strategem we work with is an events management and business consultancy firm while the Stratagem that the Taxpayers' Alliance refers to is a political consultancy based in Northern Ireland. Most recently Strategem helped Scottish Enterprise to deliver a series of events and workshops for Scottish businesses which offered relevant advice to support them in the current economic downturn."

SE also defended work by Fleishman Hillard as one of three PR agencies that work with Scottish Development International, and £109,000 with think tank DEMOS, looking at the importance of place in helping to attract and retain talented individuals in Scottish cities.

A spokesperson added: "We use consultants for a range of services to help ensure our range of projects are delivered effectively and offer good value for money.

"Over the past six years, our spend on consultancy services has reduced by almost half."

The alliance blamed the error on Scottish Enterprise's response to a Freedom of Information request and insisted its general point about political spending across the UK was valid. Matthew Sinclair, research director, said: "It is shocking that such a large amount of taxpayers' money is being spent by government lobbying the government.

"It is wasteful for quangos to hire lobbyists in order to persuade government to increase their budgets, and it is morally wrong for government to bankroll political allies."

http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/news/display.var.2523755.0.Pressure_group_demands_a_ban_on_public_bodies_hiring_lobbyists.php

Cynic said...

Why on earth does the Association of Police Authorities need to pay people to lobby for it. Half of their members are elected members.

Surely this cannot mean that Labour simply ignores the views of the Party's own elected members in Local Authorities? Indded, why are we apying for an APA anyway? Never!!!

Surely that money would be better spent on front line policing rather then conferences in expensive hotels and PR firms.

MB said...

I have not seen any comments on one of the qualifications for fast tracking UK citizenship is trade union "activism" or canvassing for a political party (presumably Labour). You would think that setting up a business would be as valid as calling a strike.

It would be rather interesting to see what the reaction would be to someone who had canvassed for the BNP!

Anonymous said...

This gov also spends huge amounts of money with:
1) consultants - around the billion, especially to left wing think tanks.
2) PR - around the billion
3) Local councilors - now get paid not allowances as of old.

A portion of this money gets channeled back to the Labour Party. The taxpayer is funding the Labour Party by the backdoor. Never trust anything this gov does.

Pete-s

Not a sheep said...

I presume that it is the government funded lobbyists that the BBC describe as "independent".

DespairingLiberal said...

Do the "political consultancies" lobby government, or do they do something different and perhaps more sinister?

Nice one for bringing this scandalous waste of taxpayer's money to the fore Iain.

Childprotector said...

Some of what is classified as "lobbying" is nothing more than media and public relations, where the necessary expertise may not exist in house. A lot of public bodies also use consultancies only for monitoring, which is usually more cost-effective to buy in than to resource in house. It would be very unusual for Departments to turn to political consultants for assistance in dealing with other institutions of government.

Andrew K said...

Anonymous 7.14 am

From the TPA website

"Scottish Enterprise have alerted us to an error in their response to our Freedom of Information request, they provided information not about the public affairs firm "Stratagem", as we requested, but the management consultancy "Strategem". We will be updating the press release and full report in light of their correction as soon as possible. It is important to be clear that this does not constitute an error on the part of the TPA and reflects in no way on the broader reliability of the report."

Mark Wallace said...

Anon @7.14 said: "Looks like the TPA got it wrong big style"

Erm, no - Scottish Enterprise provided the wrong information in their own FoI response. We asked for info on StratAgem, the lobbying firm, and they mis-read it and provided numbers that were their spending on StratEgem. The wrong spelling was at their end, so it's their mistake!

You can't dismiss the issue on the basis that a Scottish quango can't read its own accounts properly.

Windsor Tripehound said...

londonmuslim said...
The Tax Avoiders Alliance


Tax avoidance of course being a perfectly legal activity.

Anyone who pays more tax than the law requires them to is a fool.

Unsworth said...

@ londonmuslim

There's a fundamental legal (and, arguably, moral) difference between 'avoidance' and 'evasion'.

Are you a State Education victim, too?

strapworld said...

The NHS Confederation have a yearly conference and many other mini conferences all paid for by Government. Each NHS trust also pays 'membership fees' so there is a double dosing of public money, in effect.' It must be closed down

What about the millions given to trades unions?

The Association of Chief of Police are financed by the Home Office. It is a private company, WHY? They have a Chief Constable on top salary as their president. WHY? It should be closed down and alongwith the Police Superintendents Association (who get taxpayers money) merge with The Police Federation! who also get tax payers money, although they have recently moved to a 20 million headquarters with full hotel facilities!!!

The greatest saving for the Country would be the money we waste sent to the EU. But Cameron would fight shy from stopping or reducing that!

I am sure many others could and would identify massive savings for the public purse.

David Cameron should open up a dedicated website for people to name public funded organisations they believe should not be funded by Taxpayers Money.

Stronghold Barricades said...

BBC are reporting that 11 year olds getting to Government target level fell by 1%

Is that Ed Balls doing?

Can they blame their education record on Maggie?

Letters From A Tory said...

Well said captainff 1:34am.

This lobbying stuff is the tip of the iceberg compared to the amount that Labour hand out to 'fake charities' i.e. organisations that have charitable status but still receive money (in some cases, millions) from the taxpayer to then lobby the government. Stonewall and the Fawcett Society spring to mind.

Rush-is-Right said...

I'm puzzled by the reference to the Byrd amendment. Wasn't that something to do with US Steel tarrifs?

trevorsden said...

What kind of pointless pathetic remark is that, Londonmuslim? Would you mind declaring any interest?

This is also going on in a massive scale at the EU. The EU pay out huge grants to its favoured organisations to enable them to lobby the EU and then the same EU say they are consulting 'the public' and the measures they are implementing are what the great European public want.

But its only because the EU is paying organosations to tell it what it wants to hear.

A scam and it seems the great wonderful corrupt labour party are up to the same trick. Should we be surprised? Right from day one when it made the alcoholic pornographer Campbell authority over civil servants and ushered in Ecclestone in through the back door for unminuted meetings - it has been mired in corruption and sleaze.

Lets not forget that Labour are using taxpayers money to 'modernise' the trade unions which are recycling that money in political donations - to the labour party.

Don't get mad - get even.

Victor, NW Kent said...

We have all been quangoed and at great expense. Many of the quangos were established to provide lucrative sinecures for the party faithful.

Many apparatchiks enjoy salaries and expenses from 3, 4 or 5 such bodies.

The head of the Charities commission gets 3 times the average wage for working 3 days a week. So, you Sir or Madam, working your butt off for £27,000 a year are subsiding this position for a woman who earns effectively 4 and half times your hourly wage.

trevorsden said...

Guido (who has his uses) points out that much of this money went to 4 lefty think-tanks.

"£1.6 million found its way from the taxpayer to four left-of-centre think tanks; Demos, the New Economics Foundation; the Institute for Public Policy Research and the New Local Government Network."

I wonder how much money is finding its way to right of centre think tanks. Guido thinks not much. Curiouser and curiouser ... well we are in an Alice in Wonderland World here.

Anonymous said...

As a small business I am required by law under threat of fine and or jail to provide every year a set of verified accounts explaining where and why I spent MY money.

If our government was also required by law to provide a set of audited accounts explaining where on what and why they spent OUR money,

a) This corruption ( and it is corrupt) wouldn't happen
b) The country wouldn't be £1.5 trillion in debt
c) Our troops wouldn't be dying uneccesarily through lack of equipment whilst MOD beaurocats parked their fat arses on nearly £1 million worth of new office chairs

neil craig said...

I must admit surprise, even bearing in mind that they don't include "councils & other public bodies" (quangos) & obviously aren't including fakecharitites, since money given to them isn't, nominally, for advertising the need for more government.

My guess is that the true figure is many tens of times that.

This is one of the greatest scandals of British politics & one which the press will not even mention. Whether this reticence is related to the fact that government can & do choose to place their advertising in newspapers irrespective of circulation. Anybody looking at the advertising in the Guardian can see that paper entirely depends on government adverts.

Chalcedon said...

Alcohol Concern and ASH are both fake charities. If they had to raise all their money from public donations they would in all probability just fold. People should be free to chose a chairty to support, not have a decision made for them by government.

Andrew said...

As much as I agree with you on all of this, two of the three biggest taxpayer funded lobbying groups (the LGA and the Association of Police Authorities) are controlled by the Conservatives. If they had any intention of actually doing stopping this practive then you would have thought this would be an easy way to save the taxpayer money. Why do they need to wait until an election?

Thats News said...

More sexism from Harriet Harman, Brown has his chips p**sed on and he is keeping very bad company indeed. Gordon Brown. Friend of dictators

And Brown has recognised the Iranian dictatorship with unseemly haste. Hell. Who lobbies Labour for Iran?

Mick said...

I'm afraid I'd like to see a second opinion on this work.

I know for certain they've mistaken an Scottish events company for an Irish lobbyist. That accounts for nearly a million. What else have they mistakenly added to the total?

Easy enough to do if your work goes out unchecked (we blogger's do it all the time). But I would treat this 'research' with the utmost caution.

It certainly doesn't help to give us any clearer sight on what needs cutting and what doesn't.

Unsworth said...

@ Andrew

"you would have thought this would be an easy way to save the taxpayer money"

Equally why should a party which is in opposition save the Government's bacon? This is not a national coalition, after all. Anyway, maybe it's better if Brown doesn't get his hands on the cash - he'd only piss it all away on yet another of his crackpot ponzi schemes.

Pelagius said...

The corollary of the TPA argument is that only private money should be used for lobbying. That's not a level playing field between the public and private sectors. It just means more privatisation, which is the TPA's real agenda.

I agree that private political consultancies should not be used. Public sector bodies should have in-house skills to perform this vital work.

But I bet the TPA and its shadowy membership do not support the proper registration of activities by all lobbyists, private and public.

Anonymous said...

• 77 public sector organisations were found to be spending on political consultancies, the biggest spender being Scottish Enterprise, which spent over £1 million

and another thing ,thats English money the celtic paracsites are spending

Mick said...

Sorry, should have left a link. Slugger has some of the detail: http://url.ie/262t

Salmondnet said...

MB: Yes. It's a shameless attempt to rig the immigration system so that it imports even more left wing votes (moral, if you don't like the electorate you've got, find a new one).

Yet it has passed almost unremarked, even amonsgt right wing bloggers. Will the modern PC Conservatives dare to challenge it, I wonder? My guess is not.

Anonymous said...

This barely scratches the surface. I would estimate that public bodies attending and doing things at the three main party conferences alone comes to around £10m.

Jon Harvey said...

In my view we need to end this whole culture of relying upon consultants. Too many of the large consultancies (and it is not just the PR / Comms / Lobbying ones) are getting very fat at our expense.

Instead, I think we need a leadership revolution of small creative ideas!

We need councils, the police, the civil service and the NHS (etc.) to support, celebrate and stimulate all the ideas that their staff have to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

(There may still be room for some consultants - I hope so because I am one - but strictly on the basis that they do nothing for government agencies that they could not do for themselves and they share all their skills and insights.)

Let's see some visionary leadership that takes government agencies off being dependant on the drip feed of consultants!

Let's see some more small creative ideas!!

http://smallcreativeideas.blogspot.com/

Unsworth said...

Deborah Mattinson.


Enough said.

Mark Wallace said...

Mick, it's clearly an error by Scottish Enterprise, not us. We contacted them to ask them to confirm the data and they did so - again without any queries or qualms.

I know that you have a personal relationship to Stratagem yourself, but it would be wrong to let that cloud your judgement on this serious issue.

Mick Fealty said...

Mark,

I would recommend you read the thread on Slugger in full. The Stratagem case (they sponsor the Slugger Political Awards for Northern Ireland), is important only insofar as it points out the flaw in the research design and the disjuncture between the headline claim and what it actually says.

In short, if you did not know that Stratagem in question was an events company and not a lobby company, it stands to reason you have no idea precisely what any of the companies in your research were actually paid for.

You were working on the basis of what their core competences were. In short, the research cannot be worth the paper its not printed on.

I urge you to have a look: http://url.ie/263w.

Anonymous said...

And of course it is not counting any of the exercises in lobbying parliament and ministers by departments pushing departmental policy, dressed up as policy research or as public consultation. You might be able to add dozens of millions for that.

captainff said...

@ TFaT 10:06AM

The list in the OP contains details of the funding for Alcohol Concern, one of my least favourite fakecharities which received less than 1% of its income from public donations (according to the latest accounts) and includes lobbying the government for policy change as one of its objectives (according to its website). The government is the primary source of income for this 'charity' that lobbies the government for policy change.

I can think of a more cost effective way of proceeding .. .. ..

Dean said...

http://fakecharities.org/

Chris Paul said...

Hilariously loads of this money will of course be spent on fringe events at the party conferences, helping the Tories among others balance the books.

neil craig said...

It looks like, in my previous post, I have once again overestimated the integrity of the lying, thieving, genocidal, fascist parasites. Why do I not learn not to give them the benefit of the doubt?

Anyway the report says it is "leaving out, for example, the £540 million budget of the Central
Office of Information in 2008-0912 and the £430 million spent on publicity by councils in
2007" p 13 (that being only an "example"!) & that "There is no systematic way of deciding which organisations’ accounts to look through,
short of going through the entire Charity Commission database" p15 & of Labour think tanks Institute for Public Policy Research, the New
Economics Foundation and the New Local Government Network - "The Freedom of Information request sent is provided in Appendix 1. It is highly unlikely we have discovered all of their public sector funding, though" p16 etc. Also these are 2007 figures which will have increased with inflation, with the fact that spending really went ballistic then & with an approaching election.

It seems that my earlier estimate of "tens of times" larger than £38m was wrong & it is likely to be several times the billion (38m + 540m +430m) given above, guessing £5 bn plus or minus 2.

Which is a significant part of our deficit.

He who pays the piper calls the tune said...

Is this like all those "Charities" who get funding and instructions from the government to implement their gestapo policies with respect to the ill in this country who receive social security payments?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. We could have a baby and bathwater problem. Government funding of external groups is not all bad. Thinking about 3 of the groups I am involved in:

One is a small group that exists to try and influence government policy. It is a group of disparate experts whose day jobs give them knowledge and expertise in a particular area. We have caused useful changes, not through making a public fuss, but through reasoned argument backed by good stats. We receive no public money, but maybe should. Our work could not be duplicated in-house as the forum of disparate experts is key.

Another group receives government money for an employment-related scheme. It offers excellent value for money because of the large volunteer element. The charity does not see itself as bought and sold over funding for a project that is aligned with its aims but could disappear with no substantial impact on the organisation.

Lastly, I have long been a member and a critic of an EU-funded pressure group, created and funded by an EU unit. I can see where the unit is coming from. It needs to be able to demonstrate public support for its proposals. But our sector does not come together Europe-wide (and in most cases not even nation-wide) in any single organisation or forum, without their providing a focus it would be very hard to hold any discussion with us, to show us how to add our voices to theirs.

(The sums involved here are trivial -- part of the point is that our sector has little money, but that doesn't mean we get treated generously by the powers that be. For instance, where we have a specialist government advisory group, ours is the type where members are unpaid, as opposed to those for fatcat sectors.)

Reason said...

Millions of pounds of taxpayers money is being poured into organisations campaigning against lapdancing clubs: Eaves: 3,608,395 pounds of taxpayers money out of its total funding of 5,220,603 pounds; Fawcett Society: 62,886 pounds.