Politics

Liberal Democrats to cut HQ staff to ‘focus on campaigns’

Sir Vince CableImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Sir Vince Cable said the cuts would not affect the party’s effectiveness

The Lib Dems are cutting staff at their London headquarters, a move they said would allow more resources to go into fighting Brexit and future elections.

The party confirmed jobs would go as part of an internal reorganisation.

Speaking on a visit to Edinburgh, leader Sir Vince Cable said there was no black hole in the party’s finances but it had to live within its means.

The Guido Fawkes website said one in four of its staff may leave and all had been offered voluntary redundancy.

The party, which has struggled since its disastrous 2015 general election, said its priority was winning votes and seats at the next election.

The Lib Dems have seen a boost in membership since the 2016 EU referendum, but have struggled to attract attention in the Brexit debate, despite being the main party campaigning for another referendum, and they continue to languish in the opinion polls.

Sir Vince, who was a cabinet minister in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government between 2010 and 2015, has said he will step down once Brexit “is resolved or stopped”.

He has also said he wants to make progress on proposed reforms aimed at turning the party into a mass movement – which could see supporters become members for free and non-MPs stand to be leader.

According to its 2017 accounts, 68 staff work at the party’s headquarters, led by chief executive Sir Nick Harvey, the former MP and minister.

The party incurred a deficit in its finances of more than £700,000 in 2017 – due to increased spending on the general election campaign, which saw an increase in MPs from eight to 12 but a fall in overall vote share.

Sir Vince said the “adjustment” in staffing was a product of the political climate.

“We’ve been campaigning on Brexit, our resources have been going into that and some of the general activities have been cut back,” he said.

“It doesn’t affect our effectiveness as a political movement although obviously it’s difficult for the individuals if we’re having to scale back and there are fewer jobs.”

The Lib Dems have always struggled to compete financially with the Conservatives and Labour, which get much of their funding from business and the unions respectively.

The party received £6.1m in donations in 2017 and got £1.2m from membership income.

In recent years, the party has scaled back its autumn conference from five to four days and said its spring gathering needs to become more “cost-effective”.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: “We are in the process of carrying out a reorganisation which will see a reduction in the number of staff at our headquarters.

“We are focussing our resources to carry on leading the fight against Brexit and taking on power and privilege to build a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

The party’s former leader Nick Clegg, who lost his seat in last year’s election, announced he had been hired by Facebook as its head of global affairs.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46070230

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