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Friday 27 May 2011

TPA – Scraping The Broadcast Barrel

Today brings new “research” from the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). And this is no ordinary “research”: it bears the imprimatur of head non-job holder Matthew Sinclair. But, sad to say, it’s not only misguided, but blatantly dishonest.

The story, claiming that the BBC, and Welsh language channel S4C, “Spend Millions on Private Healthcare”, is based on Freedom of Information (FoI) request feedback. And the TPA slip up even before they’ve done with the heading: putting the spend for the Beeb in 2010 together with that for S4C in 2010-11 gives a total of just under £810,000. So “Spend Millions” [present tense] is plain flat wrong.

In order to reach an amount of “Millions” [plural], the TPA has to aggregate three years’ spending, which is roughly equivalent to my saying that I spend [present tense] thousands on Council Tax (shock horror) although the annual bill comes to no more than £700. The tactic should surprise no-one, though: the TPA has used the same idea to claim that HS2 will cost “a thousand pounds per family”.

But does the TPA have a point? After all, the BBC is funded by the licence fee, which all of us with a television set are paying. Well, out of around 26,000 who work for the Beeb in the UK, 532 benefit from private health insurance payments. That’s about two per cent, which suggests that the other 98% use the NHS, or buy their own insurance.

How does the BBC compare with other large organisations? Without that information – which the TPA hasn’t bothered to seek out – the figures have little meaning, unless the suggestion is that those getting private cover, who will be the most senior tier of management, should not enjoy that benefit.

And if those 532 staff exclusively used the NHS, there would be a need for more resources for that service. How much more? Oh, I dunno, let’s say around £810,000 a year. All for what? A reduction in the licence fee of around 25p per annum, but a corresponding rise in general taxation to pay for it.

Unless, of course, the TPA is arguing that the private sector gives less good value than the NHS.

[UPDATE: the potential reduction in the licence fee is actually just 2.5p. I put my decimal point in the wrong place, and unlike the TPA, this blog acknowledges its howlers]


Adam said...

I work as a Pay & Benefits consultant and thought you'd like to know what kind of Private Medical Insurance provision is available:

Basically, some 26% of surveyed organisations offer PMI to ALL employees. Around 42% (including that 26%) offer PMI to at least some employees.

Great article and keep up all the blogging. I love your work.

Tim Fenton said...

Adam, you're too kind ;-)

That link is very interesting, and I might just use that as the basis of a blogpost next week. Many thanks for the information.