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Friday 20 January 2012

TPA – Three Times A Whopper

[Update at end of post]

The dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) clearly has little useful work to occupy it, so has resorted to lifting fortnight-old copy from newspapers and drawing typically misleading conclusions. Under the name of Colin Cameron, an item from the Manchester Evening News dated January 5 has been elevated to a concern of the greatest importance.

They're getting a little too comfortable in there

The original piece, “Salford University spends £132k on logo saying it’s in Manchester” was mischievous enough – the new logo doesn’t make that assertion – but at least did not use the TPA’s conclusion that the sum concerned was “taxpayers’ money”, because most of it wasn’t. The University faced an age old problem – people outside the North West find Salford difficult to place.

You TPA backers paid a lot more than that

That’s mainly because, although Salford is a city in its own right, attention inevitably goes to its far better known neighbour, Manchester. It’s not unlike Newcastle and Gateshead, or Liverpool and Birkenhead, or indeed any one of several places in the West Midlands which those from out of town inevitably class as being “somewhere near Birmingham”.

So how much “taxpayers’ money” has been expended on the new logo? Well, had the TPA bothered to use the advanced research tool known as “five minutes’ Googling”, they could have found an online copy of Salford University’s annual report for 2011, which includes details of income streams, helpfully translated into colourful pie charts.

Clear enough even for the TPA

And the 2011 pie chart shows that just 33% of total income came from “Funding Council Grants” – in other words, the “taxpayers’ money” the TPA is so fond of discussing. One could argue that tuition fees come from present or future taxpayers, but going down that route would mean calling the income of every retail outlet “taxpayers’ money”, which the TPA will not be.

Which means that the taxpayer contribution to the new Salford University logo is around a third of its total cost. The TPA could, and should, have checked that before putting the boot in. And it could, and should, have got its story straight: the logo has not been subjected to further redesign as the TPA asserts. Those rich TPA backers are getting very poor value for all that money they throw at it.

It’s another example of shoddy practice by a group which has already written its conclusion without bothering to check the facts first.

No change there, then.

[UPDATE 1730 hours: despite a number of Twitter interventions inviting the TPA to either amend or withdraw the story, no change has yet been made. This despite the assertion that "The University of Salford has just spent £130,000 of taxpayers' money" when it hasn't, and that the University's new logo had to be subsequently changed, which it didn't.

This tells you all about the level of veracity practiced by the TPA]

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