We heard a lot of warm words about reform last week, but the real change that needs to come from this episode is the expansion and strengthening of the act. The legislation is still not fulfilling its potential. There are too many people and organisations, dependent on taxpayers’ money, which are not subject to freedom of information (FoI) law. There are also too many ways for organisations to avoid answering requests that might reveal embarrassing information.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is committed to ensuring taxpayers get value for money, and we were curious about how much the Carbon Trust spent on a huge advert at Bank Underground station in London. Unfortunately, while the Carbon Trust is almost entirely funded by the taxpayer – to the tune of nearly £100m – its nominal status as an independent company means it isn’t subject to the act.
Similarly, an excellent website – Fakecharities.org – has revealed that a number of campaigning charities are now underwritten by the taxpayer. Alcohol Concern, for example, gets 57% of its funding from the Department of Health, yet FoI requests can’t be used to discover how it spends our money.
And so now we know what MPs have been doing with our money as far as their personal spending habits are concerned—they have been shamelessly lining their pockets and generally behaving as though every single pound does not represent some unit of a productive person's labour.
Given that these fucks seem to have so little respect for the fruits of our toil as regards their personal spending habits, it seems equally likely that this lax attitude is replicated across government.
We must now press for the total exposure of the entire government accounts: we need to find out who they are throwing our money at, and what those organisations are using our money for.
In many cases, the information is available but it is not conveniently accessible. After all, all charity accounts in England and Wales are online at the Charity Commission website; the trouble is that most people do not have the time or inclination to go trawling through thousands of multi-page PDFs—at heart, this is why fakecharities.org exists.
Myself and my colleagues trawl through the accounts of these organisations so that you can search the database and find out which organisations are spending your money.
And make no mistake—as we have seen from charity-industry bloggers like Rob Permeable—these fake charities have pretty much the same attitude to our money as our MPs do: that they are totally entitled to steal the fruit of our labour and do what the fuck they like with it. Make no mistake, these "charities" have precisely the same sense of arrogant entitlement that our MPs do.
In a small way, fakecharities.org aims to make it easier for you to find out where your money goes, and thus why your pay-cheque is so much smaller than it could be—or should be.
I know that the TPA are looking into the same area and I am sure that, with their greater resources, they will be able to make an even more comprehensive study of the murky world of charity financing.
In the meantime, thank you to those of you who have donated to fakecharities.org: my colleagues and will continue the work of trawling the accounts, and your donations help pay for servers and—dare I say it?—a beer or two. After all, it's tedious and thirsty work, so thank you...