Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans?


by Tim Fenton    
4:03 pm - November 27th 2011

      Share on Tumblr

They had no hesitation on the High Speed Rail 2 project: the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) was on the case from the start, branding it “a white elephant”, “a rich man’s railway”, asserting that the £30 billion overall cost of the “Y network” could be better spent elsewhere.

So one might think that grandiose projects costing tens of billions of pounds would automatically attract the TPA’s critical eye from the outset.

But such a thought would be misplaced when considering a scheme far less well thought out and potentially twice as expensive as HS2 – building a new London airport somewhere out in the Thames estuary.

That the cheerleader for the scheme is occasional London mayor and regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, a figure much loved by the right leaning part of the media and blogosphere, may not be unconnected.

The TPA’s silence further throws into question the assertion that the group is “non-partisan”.

Moreover, the TPA has been absent throughout Bozza’s outpouring of vanity projects: as the price tag of the “New Bus For London” rose – now it’s going to be over £11 million for the first five vehicles versus £350k each for off-the-shelf hybrid double deckers – the Comfortable of Tufton Street said not a word.

When Boris suggested blowing tens of millions on an unnecessary cable car ride across the river, another project with a rising price tag, and it became clear that TfL was going to have to foot the bill, there was further silence from the TPA. So there were no claims of “white elephant” or “rich man’s” project.

This is despite the projected cost rising from £40 billion to the present estimate of between £50 and £60 billion.

Instead, the TPA’s latest “research note” continues their demonisation of public service by going after the trade unions – over a figure 0.2% the size of the bill for the airport.

No-one should be surprised: as with their claim to be a “grassroots” organisation, the TPA’s boast of being “non-partisan” is a sham.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,London Mayor


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Airports are built with private money, HS2 with taxpayers money. Hence TPA not interested in Boris Island. No conspiracy.

Airports are built with private money, HS2 with taxpayers money

Rubbish – there are plenty of taxpayers subsidies that go into airports. Secondly, if that were the case with Boris’ idea – where will the money come from? Has he secured funding?

The Cable care plan similarly has a huge pvt funding shortfall and will have to be made up via TFL

Osborne losses the taxpayer £400m on Nortern Rock. Stony silence from TPA.

Osborne underwrites subprime mortgages with taxpayer money. Stony silence from TPA.

Osborne underwrites bank loans to SMEs with taxpayers money. You’ve probably got the gist of it now.

Sunny, cynic’s comment isn’t total rubbish, a cursory read of the material produced by the Mayor and other supporters would show that they hope to attract most of the money from the private sector. Probably not all, but look at other airport projects around the world – it’s not unusual.

On the original post, I am wondering why lefties are attacking the Mayor for building the cable car – a public transport connection for pedestrians and cyclists across the river where there were previously plans for a motorway bridge? Could it because it’s Boris leading the project?

Strenuous partisanship leads to bad politics and policy, whatever your political bent.

The idea that “airports are built with private money” is a real steaming one.

Heathrow was developed by the Government of the day. Manchester is still owned by the authorities that make up the former metropolitan county. Leeds/Bradford has only recently been sold off. Liverpool Airport was developed by the city council. Ditto Birmingham Airport.

But, as the saying goes, nice try.

@4, the cable car has a maximum one way capacity of 1200 persons an hour (10 person cabins at a 30 second headway) whereas the journey between the endpoints (near North Greenwich tube and near Custom House DLR) can be done by Jubilee Line tube and DLR, which has rather more capacity at most times.

The cable car will also attract a premium price (so cheaper to use existing links). And it in no way could credibly provide a substitute for a motorway bridge.

And the cable car will have no room for cyclists, unless there is a reduction in the number of passengers carried.

The proposed airport will also have to consider other matters, such as the SS Richard Montgomery.

6. Frances_coppola

If I was going to be completely cynical I would point out that the area presently earmarked for an expansion of airport capacity including a third runway contains large numbers of Boris’s voters and presumably also (since it is a very well-heeled area) members of the TPA. So Boris is bound to promote the idea of a new airport in a much poorer area outside London, and therefore not populated with Boris’s voters, and members of the TPA are bound to be in favour of this since they don’t live there. It’s NIMBYism, pure and simple.

Heathrow was developed by the Government of the day.

During WWII: yes, lots of things do tend to get developed by governments in wartime.

And this shows that all airports everywhere must always be built and funded by governments how?

@7

The decision to develop Heathrow as London’s airport was taken after the end of the war.

The proposition that “all airports everywhere must always be built and funded by Governments” has not been made, so I’ll pass on the invitation to “look over there”, thanks.

“During WWII: yes, lots of things do tend to get developed by governments in wartime”

One does wonder whether if you’d been blogging during WW2 you’d have been calling Churchill economically illiterate for presiding over a period of rationing.

When the “ Rich Tax payers Alliance” has the balls to publish who finances them, then I might listen to what they have to say.

But seeing as that will mean revealing the identity of wealthy billionaires and millionaires and various corporate interests that is not going to happen. Until then, I don’t think we should offer them any free publicity.

I heard this morning that the new airport would replace Heathrow, and Heathrow cold them be sold.

The value of the land would (so the argument went) more than cover the new airport.

I’m non partisan in this because I’m Scottish, so it doesn’t affect me how the English spend their transport budget.

Personally I think it’s a mad idea. Is there not some gas works nearby and a sunken ship with unexploded explosive material close by the island, not to mention the bird sanctuary on the marshes. But everything this lot does is totally bonkers…

@11. Tris: “The value of the land would (so the argument went) more than cover the new airport.”

That is an interesting conundrum. Residential property close to Heathrow is cheaper than elsewhere owing to the environmental impact of the airport. Some commercial property is highly valued because it is adjacent to the airport. What would be the value of land/buildings without an airport there?

13. Biffy Dunderdale

If the Left really want to start examining whether ostensibly non-partisan organisations are in fact party political, we can do so. I really don’t think its in your own interest though. Just sayin’…

14. Frances_coppola

Tris

There are two power stations, for starters…..and about a hundred thousand wading birds which would be a considerable risk to aircraft so would have to be shot. The RSPB is understandably adamantly opposed to the proposal.

How about £140m for the hire bike scheme which was promised to be at no cost to Londoners (£25m Barclays sponsorship spread across bike hire scheme and Cycle Superhighways, which have managed to kill two cyclists) and has only been used by 4% of female Londoners?

16. Arthur Seaton

The Tax Dodgers Alliance are a Tory front group, pure and simple. Like any group financed by multi-millionaires which espouses pseudo-libertarianism, they have no more genuine principles than a stoat.

Tim/Sunny: the way this has been edited makes the third-last paragraph read strangely – it sounds like the gbp50bn price tag is referring to the cable car, rather than to the airport.

Tom: Tim’s response here is decent, but perhaps a little polite. The cable car is complete nonsense – like the BorisBus, it’s a flashy waste of money that does nothing to actually improve London’s transport capacity while soaking up money from the transport budget (also, the proposed East River Crossing would have been a combined road/rail/cycle bridge, providing substantial tram, bus and cycle capacity, orders of magnitude higher than the cablecar will provide).

On the ‘paying for the airport’ front, I don’t think it’d be possible to raise GBP50bn of private finance for a 20-year infrastructure project at this point, for fairly obvious reasons – *even if* the airport had a business plan showing it was going to generate a decent financial return on investment. Which, based on the documents and statements released so far, it doesn’t.

18. So Much For Subtlety

6. Frances_coppola

So Boris is bound to promote the idea of a new airport in a much poorer area outside London, and therefore not populated with Boris’s voters, and members of the TPA are bound to be in favour of this since they don’t live there. It’s NIMBYism, pure and simple.

That may well play a role, but Heathrow was fine for Britain when most flights were to America and the Empire. They are less good when most flights are to Europe and Asia – that means flying over London both ways.

There is a sensible case for putting a bigger airport on the eastern side of London whether or not Tory voters live there. The island approach is probably the only way to prevent it getting caught up in decades of planning appeals and spurious environmental law suits. Even then.

9. Planeshift

One does wonder whether if you’d been blogging during WW2 you’d have been calling Churchill economically illiterate for presiding over a period of rationing.

Even as committed a leftie as A. J. P. Taylor admitted rationing in WW2 was not necessary or even useful. It simply made people feel the pain was being shared.

14. Frances_coppola

There are two power stations, for starters…..and about a hundred thousand wading birds which would be a considerable risk to aircraft so would have to be shot. The RSPB is understandably adamantly opposed to the proposal.

Most airports seem to get by with simpler solutions like falcons. I have family ties to a place where the airport runs out across the beach over the sea. In fact two places where it does. Neither has a problem with bird strikes.

15. Helen

How about £140m for the hire bike scheme which was promised to be at no cost to Londoners (£25m Barclays sponsorship spread across bike hire scheme and Cycle Superhighways, which have managed to kill two cyclists) and has only been used by 4% of female Londoners?

Why should anyone care if half London’s population is too fat and lazy to get on a bike from time to time?

@18

“Why should anyone care if half London’s population is too fat and lazy to get on a bike from time to time?”

Perhaps they can’t use a bike because they are disabled. They might also be put off by the speeds people drive at in London.

20. So Much For Subtlety

19. Richard

Perhaps they can’t use a bike because they are disabled. They might also be put off by the speeds people drive at in London.

I am not sure that LC is going to like anyone arguing that being a woman is a form of disability. What speeds? Last time I was in London I was out-pacing cars just by walking. Nor am I am particularly rapid walker these days. I suppose it does depend on where you are in London. Much of central London is not quick.

21. Frances_coppola

18 SMFS

1) Personally I don’t think there is any need for increased airport capacity in the South East. I’d rather see the traffic go further North where it is wanted and needed.

At present all three local authorities responsible for the area under consideration – Kent, Medway and Essex – are adamantly opposed to any airport being built in the Thames Estuary. Boris has some work to do to persuade them, and the people who live there. The entire area is marginal Conservative seats, so the Government is hardly likely to agree to this proposal against the wishes of local people, is it?

2) The bird problem is far larger than your ordinary beach. The proposed site is close to a major bird sanctuary and SSSI. There are therefore major environmental impacts. The bird problem was the major reason for the Cliffe airport proposal being turned down and the “island” proposal has the same problem due to its proximity to Sheppey.

@18

You have revealed at the outset that you know precisely zero about aeronautics.

An aircraft departing Heathrow for a destination in Asia does not point that way for take-off and climb. Take-off is performed into the prevailing wind, and if this is a westerly, then all flights take off to the west.

As all incoming flights would be approaching over London, anything departing would not be overflying the city, for reasons that should be obvious.

But then, SMFS is the duty troll. One shouldn’t expect any better.

23. the a&e charge nurse

[10] “When the “ Rich Tax payers Alliance” has the balls to publish who finances them, then I might listen to what they have to say” – spot on, Sally.
If the tory-front, sorry, I meant TPA, want to be taken seriously then declarations of interest should precede any reports produced by them (assuming they are aspiring to a proper evidence based approach).

“But seeing as that will mean revealing the identity of wealthy billionaires and millionaires and various corporate interests that is not going to happen. Until then, I don’t think we should offer them any free publicity” – again, I tend to agree.
The bottom line is the tory-front (or TPA if you prefer) are ideologically driven, and seem content to use selective evidence to promote their own political agenda – it’s just that they are rather fond of dressing up their propaganda in spurious research terms in order to add a bit of a gravitas to their, aherm, ‘findings’?

24. So Much For Subtlety

21. Frances_coppola

1) Personally I don’t think there is any need for increased airport capacity in the South East. I’d rather see the traffic go further North where it is wanted and needed.

Well it is not so much what either of us would like but where the market is. Do you think there is a lack of demand for more airport space in the South East? I am not sure. Even if there was, reducing the number of flights over London can only be a good thing.

At present all three local authorities responsible for the area under consideration – Kent, Medway and Essex – are adamantly opposed to any airport being built in the Thames Estuary. Boris has some work to do to persuade them, and the people who live there. The entire area is marginal Conservative seats, so the Government is hardly likely to agree to this proposal against the wishes of local people, is it?

Depends how much guts they have. We have suffered for too long from governments that do not have the courage to make the most basic decisions unless focused grouped to death. It would be nice to see someone make an actual decision to build something for a change. I suggest not asking the local councils or the people who live there. What business is it of theirs anyway?

2) The bird problem is far larger than your ordinary beach. The proposed site is close to a major bird sanctuary and SSSI. There are therefore major environmental impacts. The bird problem was the major reason for the Cliffe airport proposal being turned down and the “island” proposal has the same problem due to its proximity to Sheppey.

Hang on, which site? There have been half a dozen proposed. I thought was the major issue with Cliffe and it had not been rejected yet? The Boris Island idea is not that close to Sheppey. I am suspicious if only because spurious claims about wildlife is so often used as a block to development.

Still there are other options. If they want to try electoral suicide, there are plenty of islands in Hampshire. Not that much further than Kent.

@6 Frances

You write, “members of the TPA ” living in the Heathrow flightpath. One suspects that there are actually very few of them, astroturfers as they are. Your point about the RSPB is more significant, they have a large membership in parliament and very strong lobbying. Boris is very unwise to take them on, unless this is just more grandstanding.

26. So Much For Subtlety

22. Tim Fenton

You have revealed at the outset that you know precisely zero about aeronautics.

Well that seems to have busted my theory that everyone on this site called Tim is worth listening to.

Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t aeronautics, you know, the science of what keeps planes in the air and moving in a forward direction? What, may one ask, does this have to do with the location of Heathrow?

An aircraft departing Heathrow for a destination in Asia does not point that way for take-off and climb. Take-off is performed into the prevailing wind, and if this is a westerly, then all flights take off to the west.

So what? Yes, we all know that take-offs are usually performed into the prevailing wind. But then the plane has to, you know, fly in a generally eastwards direction to get to places like Asia. You know, the Far East. You might have noticed there is this big thing directly to the east of Heathrow. It is called London. Which means the nice shiny plane-y things, have to turn around to fly to the east when they want to go most places in Europe and/or Asia. Thus passing over London.

As all incoming flights would be approaching over London, anything departing would not be overflying the city, for reasons that should be obvious.

So … you are admitting that planes have to fly over London on the approach? So the obvious question is, why are you wasting my time? Given that is, you know, my point or at least half of it. The point being if the airport was in Kent, they would not have to fly over London either way.

Come on. Idiocies on LC usually come slightly better than this.

@26

SMFS has not heard of Healey’s dictum.

If the airport were in Kent, this would not preclude overflying London.

Aircraft taking off from Heathrow and headed for a destination in Asia, as I have already noted, do not overfly London, for the obvious reason that aircraft approaching Heathrow are doing so.

Rather, they would pass well to the north or south of the city. And save me the precious crap suggesting that your presence here is important, or indeed the rest of the puerile abuse.

@13 “If the Left really want to start examining whether ostensibly non-partisan organisations are in fact party political, we can do so. I really don’t think its in your own interest though. Just sayin’…”

Has anyone got any clue who or what this bloke is referring to? Who are these secret lefties pulling strings? The Unions are surely fairly upfront about their affiliations, what with them funding the Labour Party. Unless he’s one of those idiots who subscribe to the debunked theory that the BBC is left-wing?

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 28

I suspect that if he had an example, he’d have raised it.

“The decision to develop Heathrow as London’s airport was taken after the end of the war.”

That’s not quite how I read it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_London_Heathrow_Airport

1943….still wartime.

There is also this point.

“The idea that “airports are built with private money” is a real steaming one.

Heathrow was developed by the Government of the day. Manchester is still owned by the authorities that make up the former metropolitan county. Leeds/Bradford has only recently been sold off. Liverpool Airport was developed by the city council. Ditto Birmingham Airport.”

Does everything that was ever developed with public money thus have to stay in the public sector forever? If so, doesn’t that rather kybosh nationalisation, for the flip side would be that anything built privately should remain private, no?

31. Frances_coppola

SMFS

“I suggest not asking the local councils or the people who live there. What business is it of theirs anyway?”

Of course it’s their business. It’s their lives that will be affected. So your suggestion is just ridiculous. Of course they should be asked. And if the elected representatives of the people who live there say “No”, then “No” is the answer. You might as well eliminate local democracy completely if you are going to override it every time someone wants to build their favourite headline project.

Maybe the tax dodgers alliance have finally realised that nobody gives a shit what they think.

I’m assuming SMFS has never or rarely actually flown into or out of LHR on a long-haul flight.

If he had, he’d know very well from the little screen in front of his face that the vast majority of arriving flights, whether from Asia or America, fly over London before landing, with flights from America flying over Sussex or Essex before turning round, and that the vast majority of departing flights, whether to Asia or America, take off towards Windsor (“why did the Queen build her palace so close to the airport?”, etc), with flights to Asia turning round and flying over Sussex or Essex.

So for Borisport, arriving flights would come in over the Channel, which would be a mild improvement on now; departing flights *to anywhere* would end up flying over London, which would be worse. Especially because departing planes are louder and entirely full of fuel.

Does everything that was ever developed with public money thus have to stay in the public sector forever?

No. Were any major airports (in the postwar sense of an airport, not a prewar aerodrome like Croydon) in the UK built with private money? Also no. Does this imply that Borisport would need to be built with public money (even if it were later privatised), in the absence of a detailed explanation of how private financing would work? Yes.

34. So Much For Subtlety

31. Frances_coppola

Of course it’s their business. It’s their lives that will be affected. So your suggestion is just ridiculous. Of course they should be asked. And if the elected representatives of the people who live there say “No”, then “No” is the answer. You might as well eliminate local democracy completely if you are going to override it every time someone wants to build their favourite headline project.

There is probably some butterflies in Peru whose lives will be affected too. I don’t really think it is a good idea to canvas them. Why of course? Suppose we took a strong liberal position that what someone does with their own property is their business and no one else’s, why would we need to ask anyone? You do not need to eliminate local democracy to say that they should have no control over important national development decisions. Just as we did not abolish democracy when we said the state had no say in what goes on in our bedrooms. After all I doubt that anyone asked any local council about Heathrow in 1943, or if they did, gave a damn about their objections.

Quietly we are moving to take control of important planning decisions out of the hands of local councils and vest them in the national government. What is more this is a common trend everywhere I can think of in the English speaking world. The local systems are too slow, too incompetent, too corrupt and too prone to NIMBYism. It is too important these days.

35. So Much For Subtlety

27. Tim Fenton

SMFS has not heard of Healey’s dictum.

And yet I am not the one making stuff up, am I?

If the airport were in Kent, this would not preclude overflying London.

Never said it would.

Aircraft taking off from Heathrow and headed for a destination in Asia, as I have already noted, do not overfly London, for the obvious reason that aircraft approaching Heathrow are doing so.

That depends very much on what you mean by London doesn’t it? Departing flights certainly fly over Richmond and even Islington. Which, myself, I would have thought were in London.

Rather, they would pass well to the north or south of the city. And save me the precious crap suggesting that your presence here is important, or indeed the rest of the puerile abuse.

Flights out of Heathrow can go to either the east or the west. Because of objections from the locals, in daylight hours they restrict flight as much as possible to take off to the West. It is not a rule, it is not a law and it is not a requirement caused by incoming flights. In fact to the best of my knowledge it is an entirely voluntary verbal agreement (of which no record seems to exist) between the residents of a near by suburb and the government of the day.

As for the rest I am not sure what you are blathering on about but I suspect you may learn that politeness is something you get when you’re polite to other people.

Try it.

33. john b

I’m assuming SMFS has never or rarely actually flown into or out of LHR on a long-haul flight.

Assume away.

If he had, he’d know very well from the little screen in front of his face that the vast majority of arriving flights, whether from Asia or America, fly over London before landing, with flights from America flying over Sussex or Essex before turning round, and that the vast majority of departing flights, whether to Asia or America, take off towards Windsor (“why did the Queen build her palace so close to the airport?”, etc), with flights to Asia turning round and flying over Sussex or Essex.

But this is because of the problem with Heathrow’s location. It is not a physical requirement, it is a compromise to reduce noise pollution to a minimum. If Heathrow was in a different location – or even a bit further to the West – they would not have to. It is a constraint on operations due to the fact that Heathrow is in the wrong place.

So for Borisport, arriving flights would come in over the Channel, which would be a mild improvement on now; departing flights *to anywhere* would end up flying over London, which would be worse. Especially because departing planes are louder and entirely full of fuel.

Sorry but why would departing flights have to fly over London? What is more, how far away are you assuming Borisport or anything like it would be?

Were any major airports (in the postwar sense of an airport, not a prewar aerodrome like Croydon) in the UK built with private money? Also no. Does this imply that Borisport would need to be built with public money (even if it were later privatised), in the absence of a detailed explanation of how private financing would work? Yes.

Yes, but that was largely because Britain had so many spare airfields lying around that the RAF was not using any more. When the Americans lay concrete runaways like there was no tomorrow (what was the estimate – enough for a road from London to Karachi?) and the government is committed to nationalisation anyway, obviously the private sector is not going to bother.

As for Borisfield, alas, I expect they could. If they guaranteed bonds as in the Indian Railways – minimum of 5% no matter how the railway did – then I am sure they could find takers and hence enough financing. Even if their plan was written on a table napkin.

@35 TL;DR

37. Frances_coppola

SMFS

Good heavens. So “national interest” trumps the lives of local people. Roll on the Soviet State of Great Britain.

You clearly know nothing about the geography of the proposed site. It is on the same small peninsula as Cooling Marshes, the site of the Cliffe airport proposal, which is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. The new proposed site is about 5 miles away from All Hallows, the village that would have disappeared under the runway in the earlier proposal, and very close to one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas terminals. It is also just across the Swale from Sheerness, at the north tip of Sheppey which also houses a major bird sanctuary. The proposed site is therefore sandwiched between two bird sanctuaries and is right next door to a major gas works. Oh, and there’s the little matter of a sunken ship full of explosives. A truly sensible place for a major hub airport.

Yes, the Cliffe airport proposal was rejected. As have all other proposals for airports to the east of London, going back to the 1971 proposal for reclaiming Maplin Sands (which I personally think was one of the better ideas). See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Estuary_Airport


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Ian M

    RT @libcon: Why don't the Taxpayers' Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/WKU4mrz6

  2. Panda

    Why don't the Taxpayers' Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/nLNG6sxf

  3. Geoffrey Pearson

    RT @libcon: Why don't the Taxpayers' Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/WKU4mrz6

  4. Atos Stories

    Why don't the Taxpayers' Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/nLNG6sxf

  5. Michael Hanley

    Grassroots or Astroturf? | Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/GFVwxER7

  6. John Fletcher

    Why don't the Taxpayers' Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/nLNG6sxf

  7. DOROTHY EDWIN

    Grassroots or Astroturf? | Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/GFVwxER7

  8. Chris Salter

    Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ysAB65Wq #ppnews

  9. Jamie

    Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/n0CEQxz7

  10. Dr. Matt Lodder

    ? " Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? http://t.co/rkNVnHSC "

  11. Alex Braithwaite

    Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/sdp5iZ0P via @libcon

  12. David Davies

    Why don’t the Taxpayers’ Alliance criticise Boris spending plans? ~ http://t.co/BPNR2jLd





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.