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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Funding Tony

An interesting article in today's Guardian reports that Labour are seeking to tackle their deficit by reducing and controlling party spending across the board on campaigning activities and getting the state to pay for security whenever the Prime Minister attends party events. At present the bill for this is picked up by the Labour Party.

I had not realised that the two major political parties receive a special grant to cover the cost of security at their annual autumn party conferences. According to the paper, last year the Home Office paid £3.69m and £1.4m for the Labour and Tory party conferences respectively under Section 48 of the Police Act 1996, which gives the home secretary the power to make additional payments in order to safeguard national security.

If this is not ingraining the two party system through state subsidy then I do not know what is. If the present climate means that all national politicians are targets then all political parties should be entitled to subsidy as well.

The other issue of course is who actually picks up the tab. In the past Police Authorities have been left to meet the cost of a party conference being held in their area with a subsequent reduction in their other budgets. This can also happen with visiting dignitaries as Paula Keaveney makes clear in her blog. When Condeleeza Rice visited North West England the Government picked up the bill for security and policing in Blackburn but expected the Merseyside Police Authority to pay for the same provision during her visit to Liverpool. They have now relented.

The lesson is that if this sort of security is to be paid for by government then it should come out of their central budgets and not those of the local police authority. That is the only way to ensure that a visit from the Prime Minister does not lead to a subsequent direct reduction in community policing.
Why not follow the Tories and organise a text poll? Premium rate texts will bring in lots of money and may finally force Blair to listen to the public again
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