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Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Stroll Across The Astroturf – 12

Just because Zelo Street has not featured the antics of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) for a while, it doesn’t mean that this less than totally principled body has been idle – far from it. The TPA, which represents less than one tenth of one per cent of UK taxpayers, and demands transparency in others while still not publishing its accounts and a list of backers, has recently brought out a video.

Wow. No advance in technology gets past the TPA, does it? Yes, a video. So that’s what all those generously compensated staff have been up to. And the video tells how we all spend lots of our time working for the taxman. But, so what? How exactly does the TPA expect hospitals, schools, highways and the rest to function?

The TPA’s economic stance, it might be thought, would mean that they would know of the best known saying of Professor Milton Friedman, the high priest of economic quack doctory: that there is “no such thing as a free lunch”. Friedman stressed that someone, somewhere would have to pay for that lunch. It’s the same with those services provided via the public sector. Someone, somewhere will have to pay for them: the TPA’s inference, that anything they don’t like is by definition “waste”, is mere flannel.

And this is characteristic of the TPA: in this “report”, they tell of the millions being raked in by those dastardly local authorities in parking fines. Wow. 328 million, in fact, for 2008-9. And, horror of horrors, some of them are allowed to spend any surplus as they want.

The “report”, in typical TPA style, goes into the most minute “detail”, showing every local authority, how much they have taken in fines, and how large a population they serve. But something is missing: in order to demonise this particular Government – and that, after all, is the sole motivation of the TPA – one figure has to be left out, and that is cost.

Yes, cost – how much does it cost to bring in the fines, which the local authorities concerned have a statutory duty to enforce? This is not as trivial as it may seem: Parking Review magazine has revealed that more than a hundred English councils lost money on their parking operations in the year covered by the TPA “report”.

So that 328 million is not, as the TPA “report” infers, some kind of windfall profit. What surplus there is, we are not told. That would get in the way of the TPA’s routine demonising of Government, and that would not do.

Oh, and where are those accounts, good TPA people?

1 comment:

allegoricus said...

Relating fines to population has plenty of scope for misapprehension too. It wouldn't be too surprising to find that, for example, Blackpool pulls in a higher parking fines income per head of population than Preston, on account of Blackpool attracting a large annual influx of visitors.