Monday, 2 April 2012

'Government Lobbying Government' Confirmed In The South West

In direct contravention of the coalition's claims to be ceasing the practice of government bodies lobbying government, I can reveal that hundreds of thousands of pounds of your taxes are being spent lobbying in favour of plain packaging for tobacco.

You may remember, back in February, my highlighting advertising hoardings which had been popping up all over the South West.

There are other examples here and here

At the time, I guessed that this could have been your taxes being used to lobby the government on its own 'public' consultation.
The above hoarding would appear to have been commissioned by NHS Smokefree South West and the order placed with this company, who don't look like they're averse to issuing the odd eye-watering invoice.

On top of the design fees, as far as I can ascertain, this space would cost around £200 per week and, of course, we don't know how many of them there are dotted around, or for how long. Add on printing costs and beer money for the bill posters and we're talking a pretty penny being spent from your taxes, I reckon.

All this, remember, purely and simply to lobby the government on a public consultation which has yet to be published!
Since then, fellow jewel thieves have made themselves busy with requests under the Freedom of Information Act and, yes, this is indeed the case.

It's quite a staggering sum, too.
Total budget in financial year 2011/12: £468,462.06

Billboards - £100,398.00
Digital advertising (including website design) - £127,685.77
Community events (including related payments to staff) - £99,146.00
Other social marketing avenues - £141,232.29
Is this perhaps funded by a generous donor? Not according to a reply I received from the chocolate box-named Pan Dorset Cluster, no.
"Funding for the plain packs protect project is included within the annual contribution paid to Smokefree South West."
NHS Devon tended to agree.
"NHS Devon does not specifically fund the Plain Packs campaign. However, it has a standard annual contribution to Smokefree South West which for 2011-12 was £370,409. This funding is the PCT’s contribution to all the activities of Smokefree South West, of which the Plain Packs campaign is one."
Another jewel robber received a reply even more unequivocal from Smokefree South West itself.
"The Plain Packs Protect campaign has no sponsors or sponsoring organisations."
So therefore, the budget of nearly half a million comes entirely from regional PCTs receiving their money from the NHS strategic health authority budget, which in turn is funded by the Department of Health.

And guess where the Department of Health gets its money from, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, that's right. You.

This £468,000, remember, is just in one section of the country. If the same per capita spend is rolled out subsequently by other tax spongers elsewhere, we're talking about nigh on £5m of your taxes being wasted by government, to lobby government.

In light of this, let's just revisit Eric Pickles' comments on what he termed "the wasteful practice of government lobbying government", shall we?
Government agencies and councils in England that spend public money on lobbying ministers face a crackdown.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it was wrong that taxpayers' money was being spent on political lobbying.
Indeed it is, Eric. So why, oh why, is your own administration doing exactly that? And why is Anne Milton so very coy about admitting it?

Well, I think they're valid questions. Don't you?

UPDATE: The Hands Off Our Packs campaign have their say on the subject here.


Brugmansia Wooller said...

They're extremely valid questions about very clear findings and should be posed in front of a much wider audience. Eric Pickles is indeed a much wider audience all by himself, but you get my drift.

This piece is incontrovertible proof that government is lobbying government, for which many thanks to you and to your accomplices.

What really gets my goat is the smug arrogant righteousness that continues to be displayed by the Hector Division of the public health crusades. Nothing can be allowed to stand in their way for they feel they have a just cause and god on their side.

I wish they'd stuck to advertising:
'Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Trap your germs in a handkerchief'.

And stuff like cholera, and whooping cough, and vitamin drops for babies.

Chris_woods said...

I have no doubt they would argue that they were not lobbying gov't but changing public opinion.
In a sense that's even more insidious, it's the government using health funds to manipulate public opinion and reduce opposition to gain support for something they have every intention of doing anyhow.

philhandyman24-7 said...

I think I will ask Cameron & Pickles myself DP-as an upstanding, non smoking member of the community! :)

David said...

Good work Dick. Clearly a corrupt use of public funds. It'll be very interesting to see how they justify this scam (which, of course, they will...) 

Jay said...

You know that scene in Total Recall, where Arnie is pulling out the tracking device bug through his nose?  That is the precise look on my face right now after reading this post and following all of the links.  The sounds I am making might also be similar. 

Right. We'll, that's my beautiful, sunny day tarnished.  Thank you kindly, sir.  :)

ivandenisovich said...

But of course there is
nothing at all political about PCTs and the NHS Executive. They are all about
patient care. The current structure is above reproach and should not be reformed
ever under any circumstances at all. Any attempts to do so are clearly aimed at
installing a US style health system rather than ensuring that our money is
spent on patients rather than political campaigns so should be opposed by the
shrieking classes with all due vigor.  

Yeah right and the DH is not even a teensy
weensy bit corrupt either. 

Dick_Puddlecote said...

"This piece is incontrovertible proof that government is lobbying government, for which many thanks to you and to your accomplices."
Ta, BW, and welcome.

What seems clear is that no-one is remotely surprised that their taxes are being ripped of anymore. It seems to be accepted as par for the course of living in Britain.  For the privilege of living under authoritarian idiots, you have to accept theft for a self-righteous cause as a residential hazard.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yep. No point in engaging the public if they disagree with what you are planning to do. We get a vote once every five years or so, for crying out loud! They even do around 20% of the manifestos they promise too. 

What more do we want? Tsk. ;)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

"ensuring that our money is spent on patients rather than political campaigns"Don't be silly. Who wants to pay nurses? ;)

alan said...

Cant help thinking that a very obvious human right is conveniently missing. The right to do whatever you want with your own body. My body, my rules.

Tom said...

Ironic, their advert saying "Move on. There's Nothing to See".

It's almost like they are celebrating their ownselves getting away with thievery of public funds for unscrupulous purposes and hateful pursuits based on fabricated allegations in broad daylight - "move along then, nothing much to see" - them flaunting their dishonesty and possible illegality in front of public eyes using the very slogan that implies such a thing is indeed being done. It's almost as if they are laughing for getting away with it so long.

Belinda Cunnison said...

new report: plain packaging will increase illicit tobacco trade, see

Stonyground said...

Fake charities seem to be a favourite way for the Government to indulge in this kind of thing. Real charities have to abide by rules about staying out of politics if they are to retain their charitable status. Other than government funding, is there a material difference between a fake charity and a real one? If not then these fake charities are breaking the rules and should have their charitable status withdrawn.

ivandenisovich said...

Sadly that isn’t
correct stonyground. In theory, charities are not supposed to indulge in
political activity but there is a loophole that allows them to do so irrespective
of real or fake status.  If they can
claim that their advocacy and constant harassment of our elected representatives
is a function of their core charitable aims then they are allowed to do pretty
much what they like.

So CRUK which is a real charity gets away with overtly
political campaigns to ban tobacco displays for example on the grounds that they
claim such actions might reduce cancer.  This
state of affairs is symptomatic of the sickness that eats away at our society. 

I pick on CRUK only because their campaign that
involved sending your MP a Christmas card calling for a ban was one of the more
tasteless and repulsive that I have seen.

James Pickett said...

Wouldn't it be fun if it was so successful that tobacco taxes evaporated? Some back-pedalling then, I fancy...