Quangos lobbying the Government using our money
Last week, a quango called ‘SmokeFree South West’ launched a lobbying campaign to push for the introduction of plain packaging on tobacco products ahead of the Government consultation. Kate Knight, heading the campaign,claims that plain packaging will discourage new smokers from taking up the habitand prevent tobacco companies from seemingly targeting young smokers and women with stylish packaging.
This campaign is being paid for using taxpayers’ money, so you and I are working hard and paying our taxes so one government body can lobby another government department to endorse plain packaging. Should taxpayers’ money really be used to lobby Ministers to make a decision on something? Can’t they make up their own minds?
Funded by the 14 Primary Care Trusts in the South West, the Smoke Free South West campaign is costing taxpayers £440,000. Despite the seemingly noble goal of encouraging healthy living, is this a good use of our money? Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to help young people find jobs, or lower the tax burden on local businesses so they can afford to hire more people?
There is a real question about the public sector’s priorities here. During the good years, before the financial crisis and the collapse in economic growth, not many people complained when the government used taxpayers’ money to mount campaigns and police personal lifestyle choices. Things have now changed. Money is tight, we need to find savings, and paying public sector bodies to lobby the Government and nanny our lives feels like an extremely low priority.
Earlier this week, when it was revealed that ‘environmental health officers’ fromHertsmere Borough council had intervened to outlaw smoking on the ‘outdoor lounge’ of the Celebrity Big Brother set, it was seen to be faintly ridiculous – very 1990s. Perspectives and priorities change in times of economic crisis.
Though the goal may be seem honourable, campaigns such as this are costly and inappropriate. Groups such Smoke Free South West has no business picking our pockets for unnecessary campaigns. No-one is stopping Kate Knight and her friends writing to their local MP and the Department for Health. But they shouldn’t be employed at our expense, wasting our money and interfering in our lives.