Alcohol Concern and Sustain slammed for 'taxpayer-funded campaigns against marketing'

LONDON - The Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA) has claimed that public money is being used to fund lobbying groups' 'political campaigns' that call for tighter restrictions on brands' marketing activities.

In a report on taypayer-funded lobbying and political campaigning, the TPA has highlighted that Alcohol Concern received £515,000 in the past financial year from the Department of Health.

The report claimed that, while Alcohol Concern does provide assistance to those suffering from alcohol abuse, its primary function is campaigning for policy change at a local and national level.

'Alcohol Concern's policy positions are controversial and not necessarily representative. They support higher duties on alcohol and increased restrictions on alcohol advertising,' said the report.

It also questioned whether Sustain, which has been at the forefront of campaigning for a 9pm watershed for 'junk-food' advertising, should have received £380,508 from various central and local government bodies.

Anti-smoking group ASH, the TPA claimed, received £191,000 from the Department of Health for its 'Smoking kills' drive, which called for plain packaging on all tobacco products and prohibiting the display of tobacco products in shops. TPA called this a 'clear case of taxpayer-funded political campaigning'.

Advertising Association chief operating officer Rae Burdon said: 'These findings are of great concern. It seems bizarre that the government should give taxpayer money to organisations to lobby government and to damage industry.'

Meanwhile, Sustain campaign co-ordinator Richard Watts said the report was 'misleading and inaccurate'.  

‘None of the money we received from government in the time period they are looking at went on campaigning - it was actually spent on project work to help deliver government policy.  Our campaigning is funded from other sources.  If the Taxpayers Alliance had bothered to check with us first, we would happily have explained this, but it seems it did not want to let the truth get in the way of a good story,' he added.

A spokeswoman for ASH echoed Watts' argument. 'They haven't taken the trouble to look at how the money we get is broken down,' she said. 'Money for campaigning comes from other sources, primarily from charities. We don't use government money to lobby government.'

Alcohol Concern declined to comment.

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