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« Was that it? Smoke-Free Index fails to ignite media interest | Main | Zero sum game »

Money, money, money

Champagne corks will be popping in London and the North East.

In November last year I wrote:

For the best part of a decade [ASH] has received over £1.5 million of our hard-earned cash.

That may be small beer compared to ASH Scotland which has swallowed upwards of £800,000 a year from the taxpayer during the same period, but it's nevertheless a substantial part of ASH's annual income.

The money has been awarded by the Department of Health with the express purpose of supporting the tobacco control plans of successive governments ...

What may concern ASH is the fact that grants are now subject to a bidding process. This means that ASH could (and hopefully will) face competition for future DH grants.

See ‘Please, minister, we want some more’.

The following day I wrote:

The irony of course is that any grant ASH receives from the DH will come with a clear stipulation that it cannot be used to lobby government.

Lobbying, however, is what ASH is particularly good at – hence this sudden burst of activity. So here's another question:

What part of ASH's funding is currently being used to lobby government to grant the group funds to support the government's tobacco control plan?

Tricky, isn't it? Perhaps it would be best to exclude ASH from the process entirely so there is no confusion.

Either way, may I suggest that public health minister Steve Brine changes his Twitter banner as a matter of urgency?

It currently features the CEO of a certain anti-smoking lobby group that is seeking a grant from the Department of Health in what should be an impartial bidding process.

That process should not only be fair, it should be seen to be fair and impartial. Just a thought.

See ‘It’s all about the money’

To be honest, I don’t think anyone seriously thought ASH wouldn’t get the nod and, lo and behold, that’s exactly what has happened.

In answer to a written question by Philip Hollobone MP (‘To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what progress his Department has made in tendering for the grant scheme relating to external stakeholder support for the tobacco control plan’), public health minister Steve Brine has replied:

The grant scheme to secure additional support to assist in the delivery of commitments made in the tobacco control plan was advertised in May and June 2018. Ten eligible organisations applied for this funding.

The Department reviewed these applications as per Cabinet Office guidelines in July and finalised this in August. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in a partnership application with FRESH North East scored the highest. All applicants have been informed of the results and paperwork is currently being finalised in order to award the grant to ASH and FRESH North East.

Note that it took a written question by a member of parliament to get this information out of the DH. Shouldn’t there have been a formal statement?

Apart from that, the most notable thing about Brine’s reply is not the fact that ASH won the bidding process (that was widely anticipated) but that it was a joint application with Fresh North East.

For years regional quit smoking groups have been under threat as councils have wised up to the fact that they can make long overdue savings by cutting budgets in this overcrowded area.

Smokefree South West and Tobacco Free Futures (formerly Smokefree North West) both succumbed to an outbreak of common sense among local councillors, but Fresh North East - run by Deborah Arnott’s mini me, Ailsa Rutter - kept going (supported, it must be said, by a hilariously compliant local media).

The award of £500,000 over five years will therefore come as a welcome boost for Fresh North East and ASH.

What’s laughable though is the fact that the Department of Health has taken so long to reach a decision everyone knew they would come to in the first place.

The only outstanding issues are:

One, who were the other nine bidders? (I think we should be told.)

Two, for the sake of transparency (a difficult concept for governments to grasp), the DH must publish the reasons it awarded the grant to ASH and our friends in the north ahead of those rival claims.

Watch this space.

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Reader Comments (4)

Scant disregard of taxpayers. Totally wrong for tax being spent on lobby groups. Politicians who don't think that the public notice again show their stupidity.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 9:53 | Unregistered Commentergray cooper

But ASH tells the Health Minister what to do and who to give money to and who to socially exclude and discriminate. The health minister has only got one job and that is to be ASH's stooge.

Brine promoting Deborah Arnott and ASH on his Twitter profile shows his mind was made up before the tendering process and Debs probably demanded he give her mini me a seat on the gravy train too as a reward for Rutter's smokerphobic hatred and downright dishonesty.

The only question is why waste money and false hope by holding any tendering process when Brine's mind was made up.

They don't even try to appear impartial for the sake of appearances anymore.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 11:31 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

There is no transparency in tobacco control. If the actual mechanisms of power are revealed tobacco control would collapse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 18:17 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

As you say, Simon, it’s interesting that these two little hate-fests felt the need to provide a combined application. Perhaps they thought that if they didn’t, one or the other of them would lose out.

And £500,000 over five years? Am I reading that right? A mere £100,000 per year between the two of them? Compared to your figure of £1.5 million to ASH alone over the last 10 years is quite a drop, isn’t it? Perhaps their funding from NRT manufacturers have gone up, and the Government have taken this into account.

Like you, I’d be curious to know which organisations have missed out at ASH’s expense.

Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 1:28 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

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