Recent Articles

The public sector rich list

by Clifford Singer     December 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

The TaxPayers’ Alliance released its annual Public Sector Rich List today, always a sure-fire hit with the media. Among the statistics highlighted by the TPA – and quoted enthusiastically by journalists – are:

There are 8 people in the public sector who earn more than £1 million a year, compared with 4 people last year.
There are 35 people in the public sector earning above £500,000 a year compared with 21 last year.
There are 120 people earning above £250,000 a year compared with 88 last year.
Which is odd, because, in the small print beneath these statements, the TPA says the real reason for the increases is that it has surveyed more staff – by investigating more quangos and making more Freedom of Information requests. “The figures are therefore not directly comparable with previous editions of the Rich List,” the TPA cautions.

So why compare them then? And if it is going to compare them, why not be consistent and include inconvenient data, such as:

The average total remuneration of those included on the list is almost £225,990 per annum, compared with £240,000 per annum last year. Excluding staff in the newly nationalised banks, this year’s average is £209,151 – down 13% on last year.
Removing the nationalised bankers also brings the number of Rich List members earning more than £1 million a year down from 8 to 2 – ie half last year’s number, despite the larger survey group. Surely a cause for both TaxPayers’ Alliances to rejoice!
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Why councils must ban the Daily Mail!

by Clifford Singer     September 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Daily Mail - not at my expense"Town hall bans staff from using Facebook after they each waste 572 hours in ONE month," proclaimed a recent Daily Mail headline.

This was an astonishing revelation: Portsmouth City Council workers were so addicted to the social networking website that they had broken the space-time continuum – compressing 19 hours of surfing into each working day.

Alas, the reality was more mundane. 572 hours was in fact the total usage for all 4,500 of Portsmouth’s employees. Individual use was a less physics-defying seven minutes a month – or 14 seconds a day. And that was during the peak month; average daily use was 11 seconds.

The Daily Mail subsequently amended its headline, though not before receiving a good deal of ridicule in its readers’ comments. (The original headline still appears at the TaxPayers’ Alliance website, whose prolific cut-and-pasting shows a cavalier disregard for such pillars of capitalism as intellectual property rights.)
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‘Big Brother Watch’ and Alex Deane

by Clifford Singer     September 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

The Sunday Times yesterday carried news of a civil liberties campaign being launched by the TaxPayers’ Alliance in October.

TPA chief executive Matthew Elliott wants the campaign, called Big Brother Watch, “to become the central hub for the latest on personal freedom and civil liberty – a forum for information and discussion on something that directly affects British citizens in their everyday lives.”

In response, Spy Blog challenges many of the claims in Elliott’s article and asks:

Why exactly should Spy Blog, or anybody else who cares about these issues, support Yet Another Campaign Organisation rather than existing ones like:
• the NO2ID Campaign,
• Privacy International,
• GeneWatch UK,
• Open Rights Group
• the Foundation for Information Policy Research
• Liberty Human Rights.

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The TPA: praising merit, talent and a juicy inheritance

by Clifford Singer     July 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s latest report, "Tax and entrepreneurship: How the tax system impedes the creation of new firms and decreases employment", contains four familiar ingredients:

1) A foreword by someone well-know (or at least not completely unknown)
2) A generous handful of footnotes (whether relevant or not)
3) Some elaborate formulae (to add a scientific veneer)
4) A hard-hitting press release (however flimsy the research).
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Is Paris Hilton really Britain’s best performing MEP?

by Clifford Singer     June 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Is the TaxPayers Alliance’s latest report, Could Do Better? Grading the Performance of British MEPs, its worst ever?

There’s no lack of competition, but this report is breathtakingly stupid.

MEPs are measured against criteria including “campaigning activity”. This is defined as “their frequency as internet hits, demonstrating campaigning and local activity”. However many times I read that explanation – and despite working as a web designer – I don’t understand it.
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Are the TaxPayers Alliance confused?

by Clifford Singer     April 3, 2009 at 9:30 am

I am the TaxPayers' Alliance!This is getting confusing. When we launched the Other TaxPayers’ Alliance we thought we were up against just one TaxPayers’ Alliance. Now we realise there were two.

TPA bullies score own goal

by Clifford Singer     February 5, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Hot on the heels of the Guardian’s excellent Tax Gap series, LabourList’s Derek Draper sparked a shouting match – real and online – when he invited the TaxPayers’ Alliance to condemn corporate tax avoidance. He pointed out – quite reasonably – that corporate tax avoidance increases the burden on those ordinary taxpayers that the TPA claims to represent.

But the TPA’s campaign director, Mark Wallace, complained that Draper’s tone was quite unreasonable – and added: “Corporate tax avoidance is a rational response to an overly complex and burdensome tax code.” So no condemnation there.

I find the spectre of being shouted at by Draper less menacing than the TPA’s own sneering condenscension towards seemingly everyone involved in providing public services.
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