Last week Eric Pickles pledged that the ‘corrosive and wasteful’ hiring of lobbyists by councils and quangos would be stopped. A welcome saving to the taxpayer, but is the use of private firms really the worst problem? What about those that skip using private companies all together?
Last week also saw the news that Greater Manchester local councils are attempting to set a 50p-per-unit minimum alcohol price. As the BBC quoted at the time:
“Andy Walker, of wellbeing and health organisation Our Life, said he hoped a by-law in Greater Manchester would be passed and create a “domino effect” nationally.”
So who are “Our Life”? According to their website they “passionately believe that people have a fundamental right to better wellbeing and health”. Generic buzz words. Essentially they are a health lobbying group seeking to have a minimum price put on alcohol, though they don’t want to call it that. Instead it’s a “campaigning membership organisation”. So who are their members and where are they getting their money from?
With a total budget in 2010/11 of £1,632,690, they are carrying over £850,000 of funds from 09-10. This is no two-bit operation. Once you deduct that, their income for 2010-11 is £782,690. Guess who is picking up the tab? £300,000 of that is a “grant from NHS North West”. A £209,000 is from that “membership” mentioned before. And who are their members? Well twenty-four NHS Trusts of course, oh and “SmokeFree North West”… a NHS Trust funded organisation.
That means that £509,000 of their £782,690 income this year is from the public money – not including the £107,480 they are bringing in from other consultancy, where the clients are unnamed, but Guido would put good money on them being public bodies too.
A minimum 65% of their income this year is from the taxpayer, how is this any better than the NHS using private lobbying firms?