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Thursday, 23 February 2012

TPA – Stoke That Phoney Fire

In an attempt to justify their seven figure budget, the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has hit on the idea of awards for those in and around Government who either conform to their ideal, or deviate from it. In the latter category has fallen Stoke on Trent Council, and the TPA, true to form, has personalised their campaign against one councillor there.

The TPA citation bears some scrutiny, as it shows the way in which this Astroturf lobby group manipulates information, misinforms, and is on occasion routinely dishonest. The latter category is exemplified by the assertion that the HMRC “recommended” mileage rate for own car use is 40p a mile. The rate is not a “recommended” rate, but what is allowed. And it’s 45p, not 40p.

We then get the “CEO Remuneration” figure, inflated by every additional cost – such as expenses – that the TPA can find. This is also dishonest: the group loves to compare these with the salary of (for instance) the Prime Minister, but that means the comparison is not like with like. The PM’s “remuneration package” works out at over half a million Pounds per annum.

Councillors’ allowances come next, along with the appearance of seven of their number on the pension scheme. The TPA does not give any background or circumstances. But it does find space for workplace Trade Union representatives, while managing not to tell what they actually do. Then Stoke is compared with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Yes, seriously, the TPA is comparing less than wealthy Stoke with one of the most affluent areas of the country. And it gets better as non-job holder Jonathan Isaby (late of ConservativeHome, not that the TPA is partisan, of course) froths that Stoke’s Council Tax has increased by 51% in the last decade. Very good, Jonathan. Now look at increases in transport, food and energy costs.

But Isaby is off and running: he asserts that the rise is “without the equivalent improvement in quantity or quality of services”. Got an example of that? No, thought not. This is the usual TPA fayre, with figures sourced from their Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expeditions, and no engagement whatever with the bodies they seek to demonise.

And there’s one figure missing from the TPA analysis: Isaby tells that the Government “found the funding to allow for a freeze in Council Tax”, but doesn’t say that not only do taxpayers have to stump up for it in any case – it’s not magic money, Jonathan – but also that this would still have meant a rise of 2.5% (as opposed to 3.49%), with a bigger rise next year.

You can always rely on the TPA for deception so obvious it picks itself apart.


Matt said...

Good article but what's your point about mileage allowances? So HMRC allows people to claim back 45p a mile and Stoke council allows 65p... sounds like Stoke are being more generous than necessary?

Tim Fenton said...

My point is that the TPA is misinforming on two counts - that the amount is not what they assert, and nor is it a recommendation.

Would you take the personal income tax allowance as an adequate amount for someone to live on?