The anti-growth lobby's trojan horse has reared its ugly head again

Taxpayers are not only funding the 'anti-growth' lobby, but now we're double-funding unaccountable 'consortiums' of public sector groups

The anti-growth lobby's trojan horse...
The Commentator
On 18 April 2012 16:54

Tearing through every spiral, funnel and sheet of the anti-growth lobby's web is a lifetime’s work. That said, having attended the recent Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference, The Commentator decided to clear just a little away in order to see who exactly was spinning this particular small segment. The answer, though not a surprise, was an eye-roller.

Let’s start at the beginning of the trail. Included among sponsors of the high-profile event was the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) who, according to a Freedom of Information request (FoI) leaked to this website contributed £5000 to sponsor the event; contributed a further £3546 on other costs such as ticket purchase and travel; sent three members of staff to attend at an estimated total of 120 man hours; so on and so forth. We've uploaded the Freedom of Information request for you to view here.

But the really interesting part is who approached SEPA to secure its funding. That person was the Directorate Lead of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC), Andrew Watkinson.

Now, this is interesting for two reasons:

Firstly, Andrew Watkinson was formerly Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and a Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at…wait for it…The University of East Anglia. Yes, that University of East Anglia of ‘Climategate’ infamy.

Secondly, SEPA is already a member of LWEC – a consortium of 22 public sector organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research and observations. These organisations include the UK research councils, government departments, devolved administrations and government agencies, all of which pay a mandatory annual subscription and/or contribute staff resources to common projects – SEPA included.

It’s therefore puzzling, to say the least, that Andrew Watkinson came begging to SEPA for more taxpayer money to help fund, under LWEC auspices, an anti-growth, anti-development conference.

Quite how much more taxpayer cash is being trickled down to green initiatives in this backdoor manner is a truly frightening prospect – though, most egregiously of all, that figure may never become clear as LWEC is not, from what we can tell, subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This is despite it being, as mentioned, a consortium of public sector organisations. We even called their offices, which they seem to share with a raft of quangos in Swindon, as well as tweeting the question to them. Are they transparent? Are they accountable? "Uh... we'll get back to you."

Think of it like a Trojan horse: an ostensibly ‘private’ initiative constructed purely for the purpose of slipping the activities of a league of public organisations under the radar. Morally, every investment and donation made by these organisations ought to be readily available to those who are bankrolling said transactions: the taxpayer.

That Andrew Watkinson is able to hoodwink the public and elicit funding from government bodies with minimal accountability – not least for initiatives that are far from proven to be worthwhile economically, if not scientifically – is nothing short of a scandal.

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