Taxpayer’s Alliance – Weekly Bulletin

Cost overruns of major government projects

 

Cost overruns of major government projects

On Monday we published our latest piece of research​​ analysing the cost overruns of 10 recent and in-progress major government projects in the UK. Written by our policy analyst Jeremy Hutton his key findings are:

  • overruns have grown to a total of​​ 32.7 years​​ and​​ £17.2 billion, or £624 per UK household.

  • the​​ £17.2 billion​​ accumulated overrun​​ could have paid for 7 of the 10 projects​​ at their initial cost estimates, with​​ £4 billion​​ leftover.

  • of the 10 projects, the modernisation of the Great Western railway, Carrier Strike, and the Emergency Services Network programme incurred the most significant cost overruns at a combined​​ £10.8 billion.

  • both internationally and in the UK, major project forecasts have been shown to be consistently optimistic in terms of both cost and time to completion and almost always take longer and cost more than expected.

  • multiple studies have suggested costs are intentionally underestimated to secure project approval, which means the potential for costs to overrun dramatically are greatly increased.

In an​​ opinion piece for​​ CityAM​​ our chief executive John O'Connell argued given this colossal waste of taxpayers' money, we should cut back on capital spending until we can get​​ it right. Glitzy vanity projects like HS2 should be scrapped and instead the money spent on​​ smaller projects that offer better value for money.

The report also highlighted how important it is that those responsible for long-term problems within major projects must be held sufficiently accountable. Project managers must expect to be scrutinised over their failures whenever they occur, regardless of whether they have moved onto new roles. 

What do you think of the report's findings?

Air Passenger Duty

In the latest series of videos examining different taxes our digital campaign manager Ethan Wilkinson published an explainer on Air Passenger Duty (APD).

For example, did you know that if you and three friends were to book a flight to Thailand you would pay​​ £312 in tax, regardless of whatever the airline fare and airport charges are. In the short term we are campaigning for APD to be cut by 50 per cent and abolished in the long term. ​​ Watch the video to find out more.

Grassroots news

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)

Let me know if you'd like the TPA to campaign in your area.

TaxPayers' Alliance in the news

Reviewing the news

On Friday morning our chief executive John O'Connell was a guest on talkRadio to discuss the day's top stories with presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer and fellow guest Sue Atkins.

John discussed everything from Brexit to the tax burden being at a 50-year high. On the subject of tax there are some promising signs coming out of No. 10. It is looking increasingly likely that we will see cuts in the near future,​​ particularly on fuel duty

Click here to listen to the show

Pressure on BBC continues

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's comments that the​​ BBC should "cough-up" for free TV licences for all over 75s I was a guest on 5 Live Drive to give my thoughts. I told​​ presenter Lucy Grey that it's about time the BBC scrapped its outdated funding model and adopted one fit for the 21st century. 

The​​ "TV tax"​​ is surely one of the most hated taxes in the country and many of you have written to me expressing your displeasure at having to pay £154.50 per year just to watch television. The BBC claims it can't fund free TV licences for all over 75s yet​​ remunerates its "stars" with seven-figure salaries​​ and​​ staff with millions of pounds of pay rises.

The BBC should move to a subscription based service that people are free to opt-out of.​​ Click here to listen to an exert from the interview.

'Land for the Many'

Back in June the Labour Party​​ released a report to revolutionise domestic property sales. The report recommended setting up a 'Common Ground Trust' that would act as a non-profit institution to separate the ownership of land and property. The party claim that the price of a buying a house could be reduced by as much as 70 per cent.

This all sounds wonderful but further analysis reveals the plan is unaffordable. Taxes would have to rise in order to bring in the tens of billions of pounds needed to pay for the plan.​​ Commenting on the story in the​​ Daily Express, our political director James Roberts said:

"Setting up a landlord quango to buy up property would mean massive borrowing and huge land rents to cover the short term costs. Capping land rents would mean borrowing even more, potentially billions of pounds. Taxpayers are facing a catch 22: new land taxes to live​​ in your own home, or higher taxes across the board to pay for the UK’s new Government land baron.

"If politicians want to reduce the cost of housing, they should focus on abolishing the hated stamp duty - not coming up with ideas for yet more damaging land taxes."

What do you think of Labour's plans to revolutionise housing costs?

Blog of the week

Save our bacon!

Yesterday was​​ International Bacon Day​​ and TPA volunteer Oliver Pike​​ blogged about his disapproval of "nanny state zealots"​​ who seem desperate to impose a tax on meat. Regular readers will recall we held​​ 'The Big Meat Up'​​ in Westminster with members of parliament to protest such a tax.

Oliver examines whether higher prices caused by taxation will alter people's diets, "the sugar tax for example has had only a​​ 'minimal impact' on dietary habits, instead resulting in manufacturers changing their recipes. But unlike a constituted drink, you can’t simply change the recipe for bacon. All a tax would do is increase the cost of living for working families or price them out of eating meat altogether. Indeed, once you scratch the surface, this is usually exactly what nanny statists actually intend. But of course, for well-paid public health zealots in their ivory towers, the extra expense would be no problem for them personally."

So let's all have a bacon butty and say no to the nanny state meat taxes!

If you would like to write a guest blog do let me know.

War on Waste

Quango chief pockets huge bonus

This week the​​ Daily Mail​​ reported that the CEO of taxpayer funded quango VisitBritain, Sally Balcombe,​​ has been awarded a bonus of £17,500 bringing her total annual remuneration to £230,000. Ms Balcombe is paid more than the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The boss of the CPS manages more than 5,600 full time staff whilst VisitBritain​​ only employs 285. Sally Balcombe was rewarded for failure it seems as Visit Britain fell​​ £61 million short​​ of its target to increase visitor spending in Britain for 2016/17.

Our chief executive John O'Connell expressed his anger"This is yet another disgraceful example of an extremely generous public sector salary. Taxpayers will be outraged that Ms Balcombe has been paid a five-figure bonus, on top of her six-figure salary, despite poor job performance. This is exactly why we have called for a​​ 'bonfire of the quangos'​​ to ensure the public's money is spent on essential services not fat cat salaries."

Do you agree with John's comments?

 

Harry Fone
Grassroots Campaign Manager

 

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