The Labour Party in Waltham Forest and the financing of local elections: a scandal in the making? (2)

A recent post, based on the evidence of a whistleblower, casts doubt on the way that the Labour Party in Waltham Forest has been financing its local government election expenditure (see link below).

The key point is that in the last two local election campaigns, the bill appears to have been picked up solely by the Labour Group (LG), in other words the councillors in the Town Hall,  and this raises eyebrows for two interrelated reasons.

First, there is the question of the LG’s status.The Electoral Commission (EC) oversees party political spending, and does this in part by monitoring what it calls ‘accounting units’, for example Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), which it requires to make fairly detailed returns.

But, significantly, the EC does not recognise Labour Groups as accounting units, and defines them as ‘Unincorporated Associations’, which means in practice that they are subject to less stringent regulation.

By operating as it does, therefore, Labour in Waltham Forest seems to be avoiding at least some degree of scrutiny.

Second, there is the question of where the LG is getting its money from. Party rules require all Labour councillors to pay a levy into LG coffers. Most (though not all) apparently cough up. So far so good. But what concerns the whistleblower is the role  – or rather non-role –  of the local CLPs.

For though the local CLPs spend a lot of time fund-raising (as in many other parts of the country),  the LG here – if the whistleblower is to be believed – has been indifferent about tapping them up for a contribution.

To the outsider, all this seems bizarre. Why on earth would the LG not call upon all the resources at its disposal?

Yet, bizarre or not, following a search of the EC’s databases, it can now be revealed that the whistleblower’s claims are corroborated.

The tables reproduced below show donations received by the LG, the Leyton and Wanstead CLP, and the Walthamstow CLP (surprisingly, the EC has no record of having received returns from Chingford and Woodford Green CLP).

The figures relate to the period since 2012, which straddles two local government elections.

And as can be seen, what emerges is that while Leyton and Wanstead CLP has received money from the LG, neither it nor Walthamstow CLP have ever made any payments in the opposite direction.

The Labour Party’s finances therefore remain swathed in mystery.

But that said, whether such a situation will persist remains open to question. For while previously Labour Party members as a whole have shown relatively little interest in internal finance, and so the LG has easily rebuffed the inquisitive, the recent waves of new young recruits, Corbynistas or not, are likely to be much more insistent in their questioning, indeed incredulous that expenditure is not well documented and fully transparent.

The story, in other words, certainly has legs.

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Walthamstow CLP

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