Public Sector Fat Cats
This week two publicly funded bodies showed how out of touch they are with taxpayers. Both the Department for International Development (DfID) and the BBC decided to award bonuses and pay rises to their staff.
It's fair to say that DfID is a controversial government department which many Brits would like to see abolished especially after it was revealed that £1.75 million of bonuses were paid to civil servants last year. The MailOnline reports that, "junior civil servants shared £1.51 million with another £243,000 for top mandarins."
Our chief executive John O'Connell expressed his anger at the bonuses, "Families and businesses are struggling under the highest tax burden in 50 years, and they won't be pleased to read that so much of their hard earned money is going towards bonuses".
Meanwhile the BBC gave hundreds of its staff pay rises of up to 20 per cent despite recently saying it can't afford to fund free TV licences for the over 75s. Giles Sheldrick of the Daily Express reported:
Examples like these show how vital it is that taxpayer funded bodies are held to account by the TPA at every turn.
Upcoming action days
We will once again be teaming up with local ratepayers group Croydon Constitutionalists to shine some much needed light on the local council's spending. Do come along and join us:
When: Saturday 7th September, 10.30am to 1pm
Where: Addington Road, CR2 8LB (map)
Bumper pay rise for council chief exec
Last week we learned that the chief executive of Surrey Heath council was awarded a colossal 37 per cent pay rise bringing her salary to nearly £200,000 per year. In an interview for BBC South Today I expressed my dismay at such a generous rise.
It is beyond the wildest dreams of many private sector employees to receive such a boost to their salary. Councils need to ensure that taxpayers' money is used as efficiently as possible, not on six-figure pay packets for council fat cats. Click here to watch the interview.
Council investment properties
Our research director Duncan Simpson was a guest on BBC Radio Sussex to discuss the news that Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) stands to lose £2 million on commercial investment properties. EBC currently owns a gym, a shopping arcade and a retail park which are now worth significantly less than what the council originally paid.
Duncan argued that councillors are not real estate fund managers and are unlikely to have the necessary skills to judge good or bad investments. Earlier this year we hosted a panel discussion asking whether councils should be investing in commercial property or not. Whilst true that local government has seen central funding cut substantially, commercial investment may not be their best option.
The sad realities of a socialist holiday
As part of our Stand Against Socialism campaign our policy analyst Jeremy Hutton wrote a blog examining the difficulty citizens of socialist countries face when it comes to holidaying.
Over past decades travelling the world has become easier than ever, a triumph of technology and free markets. A century ago travelling to Australia would have taken around 40 days aboard ships. Now, you can do it in a single flight. Yet not every country has embraced the opportunities offered by easier and cheaper travel. In fact, throughout the 20th century and up to the present day, many reclusive socialist countries have imposed rigorous travel restrictions that made overseas trips all but impossible.
For example, leaving Cuba (up until 2013) was far from easy as Jeremy explains:
"To leave the country you would have to spend hours queuing up outside the Havana emigration offices from early in the morning, just to guarantee an appointment. But even then departure was not guaranteed. The costs of leaving were significant. First of all you would need a letter of invitation from whomever you were visiting, for which there was a fee of $200. Then you would need a further $150 dollars for the exit permit itself, which on its own was equivalent to more than seven times the average monthly salary."
£2 million down the drain
The NHS has spent almost £2 million on "trendy" Aveeno shampoos despite a ban on doctors prescribing products that could be bought in shops. The MailOnline reports that Aveeno was prescribed nearly 250,000 times last year in England, a more than three-fold increase since 2014.
Commenting on the findings our political director James Roberts blasted the NHS, "Splashing taxpayers’ cash on off-the-shelf toiletries, which could simply be bought from the local supermarket, simply won't wash. Prescriptions come with a hefty price tag for the health service, at a time when patients want to see more pounds and pennies reaching front line services."