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Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, today announced plans to increase transparency and stop the growing practice of local authorities hiring lobbyists to push for more regulation, more state intervention and more ‘pork barrel’ funding. This follows on from the plans for tougher rules to stop councils using taxpayer-funded town hall newspapers to shut down commercial independent rivals.

Growing practice of public sector lobbying: The new rules will take the form of an amended statutory Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, which is intended to stop campaigns being run from public funds. A new survey today names 74 local authorities and police authorities which have hired national public affairs firms for lobbying – often branded with the euphemisms of ‘stakeholder consultancy’ and ‘strategic political relations’. One of the most common lobbying hires has been councils hiring lobbyists to campaign for and against unitary restructuring – which is a matter for Parliament.

Wasteful quango lobbying on top: Eric Pickles has also instructed all his department's quangos to cancel their contracts with lobbying firms. This has already resulted in the end of Ordnance Survey's lobbying contract with Mandate; the termination of the Tenants Services Authority contract with APCO Worldwide, and the cancellation of the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation's hiring of Chelgate Public Affairs. The Audit Commission's lobbying contract ended in February 2010 following a public exposé of its activities.

Unhealthy influence of public sector lobbying: No criticism is being made of the public affairs firms themselves, rather the public bodies who hire them. Such ‘lobbying on the rates’ is wrong since:

  • Taxpayers’ funds are being spent on political campaigning to lobby government.
  • It distorts public decision making, with a statist bias for more regulation and more spending.
  • Public policy is conducted outside the Freedom of Information Act and transparency rules, with private firms becoming part of a growing ‘para-state’.
  • Such campaigns are not localist; public money is being spent outside the local area on national lobbyists to influence national politicians on matters which are the remit of Parliament.
  • It wastes taxpayers’ money and adds to the cost of politics, with local authorities thinking they need to hire lobbyists in order to be able communicate with government.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says:

“Taxpayer-funded lobbying and propaganda on the rates weakens our democracy. So-called town hall newspapers are already closing down scrutiny from independent local papers. Now lobbyists are being used sidestep transparency laws and shadowy figures are peddling more regulation and special favours.

“Local activism and localism don’t need lobbyists. If local politicians want to change the way government operates, their council should send a letter or pick up the phone. Councillors can campaign for change at a personal or party political level, rather than throwing away other people’s council tax on the corrosive and wasteful practice of government lobbying government. These tough new rules will lower the cost of politics and increase transparency.”

Robert Neill says, in reply to a Parliamentary Question from Andrew Jones:

"The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, to which councils are statutorily required to have regard, states that councils should ensure the greatest cost effectiveness in
all their publicity and makes clear that public funds should not be used for publicity campaigns intended to persuade the public to hold a particular view on a question of policy.

"The Code of Recommended Practice is shortly to be updated. Subject to consultation, we are minded to include stronger guidance to stop the wasteful and unhealthy practice of councils, funded by local or national taxpayers, paying for lobbyists to lobby Government. My Department has already issued guidance to its arms length bodies to cancel their contracts with lobbyists.”

Eric Pickles has informed his Arms Length Bodies to cancel their contracts with lobbyists. Their expenditure on lobbying firms in the last year was as follows:

  • Ordnance Survey – Mandate – £35,767 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records; listed as public affairs consultancy in APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009]
  • Housing Ombudsman – APCO Worldwide – £12,400 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records; listed as public affairs consultancy in APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009]
  • Audit Commission – Connect Public Affairs – £55,617 [December 2008 to December 2009; source: Hansard, 1 December 2009, col. 640W]
  • Tenants Services Authority – APCO Worldwide – est. £80,500 [August 2008 to May 2009, source: Hansard, 19 May 2009, col. 1345W]
  • Homes and Communities Agency – Communiqué – £5,808 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records; listed as public affairs consultancy in APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009]
  • London Thames Gateway Development Corporation – Connect Public Affairs – £6,355 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records] and London Communications Agency – £153,869 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records; listed as public affairs consultancy in PRCA Public Affairs Register, Dec 2009 to Feb 2010; this will include some marketing spend] and previously Euro RSCG Apex Communications [Hansard, 1 May 2008, col. 669W].
  • Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation – Connect Public Affairs – £58,536 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records] and London Communications Agency – £113,682 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records; listed as public affairs consultancy in PRCA Public Affairs Register, Dec 2009 to Feb 2010; this will include some marketing spend]
  • West Northants Development Corporation – Chelgate – £79,595 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records]
  • Fire Service College – Four Communications – £16,949 [2009-10, source: CLG internal records]

Below is a list of recent hires by local authorities and police authorities of lobbyists, using information from public sources. The true picture will be larger, as not all lobbying firms declare their client lists.

Also it does not iinclude all the spending on membership subs to lobby groups such as the Local Goovernment Association and London Councils and the equivalent regional bodies around the country. Spending transparency willl provide much more comprehensive and current information on spending than the Freedom of Information Requests that groups like the Taxpayers Alliance currently have to rely on.

You may be dismayed to find my Council, Hammersmith and Fulham, named and shamed. We include for £1,880 paid to Four Communications in 2007/08 this was not for political lobbying but for some PR work on a regeneraton scheme. So it was a modest sum and not actually for lobbying – not that I am claiming it was money well spent.

Anyway here is the list

1. Barking & Dagenham Borough Council – Grayling Political Strategy and also Citigate Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

2. Blackpool Council – Heathcroft Communications – source: APPC Register, 1 December 2009 to 28 February 2010.

3.Cardiff County Council – Positif – source: ‘training’ public affairs consultancy, APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009]

4. Caerphilly County Council – Positif – source: ‘training’ public affairs consultancy, APPC Register, 1 March 2009 to 31 May 2009.

5. Cheshire County Council – Politics International and also Euro RSCG Apex Communications – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

6. City of London – Sovereign Strategy – source: http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

7. County Councils Network – Bellenden Public Affairs – source: APPC
Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

8. Croydon Council – Luther Pendragon – source:
http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

9.Cumbria County Council – Euro RSCG Apex Communications –http://www.apexcommunications.com/clients.html

10. Denbighshire Council – Positif – source: ‘training’ public affairs consultancy, APPC Register, 1 March 2009 to 31 May 2009.

11. Devon County Council – Bellenden Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010. Devon County Council – Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

12. Enfield Council – Lexington – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to
31 May 2010.

13. Essex County Council – Four Communications – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2009 to 31 May 2009.

14. Exeter City Council – Connect Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009. Exeter City Council – Luther Pendragon “Luther has supporting [sic] Exeter City Council in its campaign to become a unitary authority; helping the council to refine its messaging and the arguments in favour of unitary status of the City and to communicate these to key politicians, regional and national media and to the people of Devon”
http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

15. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

16. Greenwich Borough Council – Citigate Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

17. Halton Borough Council – Politics International – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

18. Hammersmith & Fulham Borough Council – Four Communications – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political  Campaigning, August 2009.

19. Haringey Council – Luther Pendragon – source:
http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

20. Havering Council – Connect Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

21. Hertfordshire County Council – PPS Group – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010. Hertfordshire County Council – Remarkable Group – source: PRCA Public Affairs Register, Dec 2009 to Feb 2010.

22. Hounslow Borough Council – FD-LLM – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2009 to 31 May 2009.

23. HSR UK (funded by Liverpool City Council, Manchester City Council, Leeds City Council, Cardiff City Council, Bristol City Council, Birmingham City Council, Nottingham City Council, Glasgow City Council, Edinburgh City Council, Newcastle City Council, Sheffield City Council) – Freshwater – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

24 Hull City Council – The Public Affairs Company –
http://www.publicaffairsco.com/clients.htm

25. Kent County Council – Westminster Advisers – source: firm’s website,
via Google Cache: http://tinyurl.com/2woxnur

26. Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (park authority funded by levy on
council tax) – London Communications Agency – source: PRCA Public
Affairs Register, Dec 2009 to Feb 2010.

27. Leicestershire County Council – PPS Group – source: Taxpayers
Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August
2009.

28. Leeds City Council – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1
December 2009 to 28 February 2010.

29. Lincolnshire County Council – PPS Group – source: Taxpayers Alliance,
Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

30. Local Government Yorkshire & Humber – Connect Public Affairs – source:
APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

31. Merthyr Tydfil Council – Positif – source: ‘training’ public affairs
consultancy, APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009

32. Milton Keynes Council – Grayling Political Strategy – source:
Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political
Campaigning, August 2009.

33. National Federation of ALMOs (councils’ arms-length housing
departments) – The Public Affairs Company
http://www.publicaffairsco.com/clients.htm

34. Newport City Council / Newport Transport– Positif – source: APPC
Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

35. Norfolk County Council – Bellenden Public Affairs – source: APPC
Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010. Norfolk County Council- Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

36. Norfolk District Councils – Freshwater – source: APPC Register, 1
December 2009 to 28 February 2010.

37. North Yorkshire County Council – The Public Affairs Company –
http://www.publicaffairsco.com/clients.htm North Yorkshire County Council – PPS Group – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August
2009.

38. North Wales Fire and Rescue Service – BayMor Solutions – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

39. North West Leicestershire District Council – Euro RSCG Apex
Communications – http://www.apexcommunications.com/clients.html

40. Norwich City Council – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register,
1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

41. Nottingham City Council – FD-LLM – source: Taxpayers Alliance,
Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

42. Oldham Council – Bell Pottinger North –
http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/988262/Bell-Pottinger-reacts-Oldham-Council-fee-claim/

43. Oxford City Council – FD-LLM – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer
Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

44. Penwith District Council – Atherton Associates –
http://www.athertonassociates.co.uk/Page3.html “Penwith District Council was fighting against moves to absorb the council into a larger unitary authority. The former Chief Executive told the TaxPayers’ Alliance that the council had, over several months, failed to secure a meeting with the minister responsible. They knew that Atherton Associates had links with that minister and hired them in order to secure that meeting, which they felt they should have been entitled to anyway. The lobbyist succeeded in setting up the meeting, though it did not ultimately change the decision and Penwith District Council was absorbed in the new Cornwall Unitary Authority." (Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009, p.17).

45. Reading Borough Council – Lexington – source: APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009.

46. Sheffield Council / Sheffield City Region – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010 and PRCA Public Affairs Register, Dec 2009 to Feb 2010.

47. Shropshire County Council – Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

48. Specialist Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities outside of the South East – Bellenden Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

49. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service  – Burston Marstellar – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

50. Southwark Council – Luther Pendragon – source: http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

51. South Gloucestershire Council – PPS Group – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

52. Surrey County Council / South East Strategic Leaders Group – Grayling Political Strategy – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

53. Suffolk County Council– Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 December 2009 to 28 February 2010.

54. Sunderland City Council – Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

55. Swindon Council – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

56. Telford & Wrekin Council – Grayling Political Strategy and also Citigate Public Affairs – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

57. Thames Gateway London Partnership (13 councils) and Thames Gateway Parliamentary Group (funded by Thames Gateway public bodies) – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

58. Transport for London – Communique – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010. Transport for London – Four Communications – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

59. Vale of Glamorgan Council – Positif – source: ‘training’ public affairs consultancy, APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009]

60. Waverley Borough Council – Euro RSCG Apex Communications – source: APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009. “Waverley – Public sector campaigning: … Apex was taken on to help a
group of councils lobby for changes to the system of housing finance being reviewed by Government…. Apex was taken on to help a group of councils lobby for changes to the system of housing finance being
reviewed by Government.”
http://www.apexcommunications.com/Apex%20Communications%20credentials%20April%202010.pdf

61. West Lancashire District Council – PPS Group – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009.

62. West Midlands Metropolitan Authorities / West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority – Fishburn Hedges – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

63. West of England Partnership consisting of unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South – Golden Arrow Communications – source: 1 December 2008 to 28 February 2009.

64. West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive  – The Public Affairs Company –
http://www.publicaffairsco.com/clients.htm

65. York City Council – The Public Affairs Company –
http://www.publicaffairsco.com/clients.htm

POLICE AUTHORITY LOBBYING
Police authorities are funded by a levy on council tax.

Association of Police Authorities – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010

British Transport Police – Freshwater – source: APPC Register, 1 March
2010 to 31 May 2010.

British Transport Police – Politics International – source: Taxpayers Alliance, Taxpayer Funded Lobbying and Political Campaigning, August 2009 and APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009.

City of London Police (fraud reporting centre) – PPS Group – APPC
Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009.

Derbyshire Police Authority – Connect Public Affairs – source: APPC
Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

East Midlands Police Authorities – Connect Public Affairs – source:
APPC Register, 1 March 2010 to 31 May 2010.

Lincolnshire Police – Luther Pendragon – source:
http://www.luther.co.uk/clients/clients.html

Metropolitan Police Service (Property Services) – London
Communications Agency – source: PRCA Public Affairs Register, Dec 2009
to Feb 2010.
“The MPS operates in a unique environment in London and is currently undergoing an extensive period of change and modernisation. As a high profile organisation delivering a key public service, the MPS
therefore faces major external scrutiny from the media, politicians, pressure groups and others across the Capital… The main role of this is to communicate to key stakeholders how the changes being made to
the property assets will directly benefit policing in London.”
http://www.londoncommunications.co.uk/html/casestudies__02Metpolice.lasso

Surrey Police Authority – Weber Shandwick Public Affairs – source:
APPC Register, 1 June 2009 to 31 August 2009 and PRCA Public Affairs
Register, 1 August 2009 – 30 November 2009.

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