Taxpayers Alliance takes campaign against clean air to Bath

Nitrogen dioxide increases the likelihood of respiratory problems

The secretively-funded ‘Taxpayers’ Alliance’ (TPA) lobby group is holding a day of action in Bath today to lobby against clean air measures.

The group, which refuses to disclose its funders, is campaigning against local council plans to create a ‘Clean Air Zone’ in Bath city centre.

Bath and North-East Somerset Council plans to charge polluting Heavy Goods Vehicless, buses and coaches £100 per day to drive into the city. Taxis and vans will be charged £9 per day. Cars are exempt from the charges.

The council says these measures are in direct response to a Government direction requiring the Council – along with 27 other local authorities – to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution (caused by vehicle emissions) to within legal limits by 2021 at the latest.

Breathing in raised levels of nitrogen dioxide increases the likelihood of respiratory problems. It inflames the lining of the lungs and can reduce immunity to lung infections. This can cause problems such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis.

Increased levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause people with asthma to have more frequent and more intense attacks. Children with asthma and older people with heart disease are most at risk.

In a message to supporters, the TPA said it was “fully in favour of reducing air quality” but said that these measures were “economically damaging”. The message did not mention any alternative measures to reduce air pollution.

The TPA boasted of succesfully blocking a similar scheme in Bath last year and called on supporters to come to Bath today to talk to local businesses and residents ahead of a council cabinet meeting.

In January 2019, LFF revealed that the TPA boasted of stopping a similar set of clean air measures in Southampton.

The TPA is an influential private company with links to the Conservative Party. It describes itself as a “think-tank” but unlike most think tanks and campaign groups has no elected leader or board of trustees.

The company does not reveal who funds it but some details of its donors have leaked.

Its office space is donated by property multimillionaire David Alberto and Tory Donor Sir Anthony Bamford, who runs JCB, is another donor.

Much of the TPA’s funding comes from abroad. In the last five years, it has received £217m from US-based donors.

The identities of many of these donors are hidden. Much of the money comes from a special fund set up to funnel money to the TPA. Those donating to that fund do not have to reveal their identities.

A former TPA employee, Shahmir Sanni described it as “a lobbying group pursuing a right-wing ideology”.

The TPA is part of a network of right-wing lobby groups who meet regularly at 55 Tufton Street in London.

The ‘who funds you’ campaign for think-tank transparency grades think-tanks on how open they are about their funding. The TPA receives an ‘E’ grade, the lowest possible, alongside the Adam Smith Institute, Center for Policy Studies, Institue for Economic Affairs and Policy Exchange.

Joe Lo is a freelance journalist and reporter for Left Foot Forward

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