Lib Dems' £550k deficit, 8.5% membership drop, and other facts from the party's annual accounts

by Stephen Tall on July 30, 2009

The Electoral Commission has just published online the latest sets of financial accounts for the main parties, including the Liberal Democrats, for the year end 31 December 2008. You can read the party’s statement of accounts HERE. For those who don’t want to wade through its 28 pages, though, here are a few of the sexier snippets:

  1. The Liberal Democrats had, by some way, the largest pre-tax deficit of any of the 11 political parties whose income and expenditure figures are published – the party’s income was £5.47 million against expenditure of £6.01m, a pre-tax deficit of £540,700. The report notes, ‘As a general election must be held within the next 12 months, it is vital to build the Party’s fund raising capacity’.
  2. Donations in 2008 accounted for £1.5m of income, against £1.9m in 2007. Income from membership and subscriptions was up very slightly at £808k. Net conference income was up significantly: £558k in 2008, compared with 415k in 2007.
  3. The bulk of the party’s expenditure falls in three main areas: staff costs (£1.75m), campaigning (£1.6m) and premises and office costs (£0.68m).
  4. Taking into account the actuarial loss on the party’s pension scheme (due to poor returns on the scheme’s assets) the toal recognised loss for the party in 2008 was £670,665.
  5. The party’s deficit on Liberal Democrat News decreased slightly, from £12.6k in 2007 to £11.6k in 2008.
  6. As at 31 December 2008, the Liberal Democrats had 59,810 members, down from 65,400 in 2007 – that’s a drop of 8.5%, bigger than Labour’s 6% drop in 2008.
  7. On Michael Brown’s £2.4m donations via 5th Avenue Partners Ltd:

    The Electoral Commission and the Party’s lawyers have both subsequently confirmed that it was reasonable for the Party to have treated these [as permissible donations]. The Electoral Commission is however entitled to review the permissibility of these donations if new evidence emerges. … The Party’s lawyers have advised that it is very unlikely … any claims in respect of these donations would be successful, therefore no provision has been made in the Party’s financial statements for the repayment of such sums.

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James S, in my experience I think you are the exception to most members in that, in my local party at least, membership is falling because the local party isn’t keeping in touch. The real problem is that recruitment and membership drives tend to fall in the lap of people like councillors, PPCs or constituency organisers who, frankly, have a million and one other things to do (including family lives and jobs.) It’s also something which people (including myself, I admit) genuinely don’t like doing.

However, you should have had some sort of contact from the local party (which at least RMC has had.) I’ve been a member of four local parties, and each time I’ve been contacted by someone there pretty soon after I’ve moved, and this is something which we are doing.

The party, though, should be trying to find out why people are leaving. This is something which any business which relies on continual payments will do, at the very least to see where their customers are going. A large percentage will simply not be renewing because they’ve forgotten, and may well renew again if asked. Some won’t agree with a particular policy – if we find out which ones, we can adjust our message if clarity is needed, or find out if we’re getting something wrong. If it’s a local matter – e.g. a planning application, or a council action – then this can be fed back to the relevant local party. And if it’s because of the constant demands for money, then surely we can sort something out to allow people to opt-out of this (any letters sent to me in this regard simply get added to the recycling without being read.)

by KL on August 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm. Reply #

So, when are we going to get word back from Nick Clegg; as to why we are wasting so much money on so many PR consultants that are doing nothing worthwhile!!! The marketing strategy is so flawed (internal and external comms)

Now that would get rid of most of that deficit.

LibDem Voice……that is your job to get the answers for us.

by Libdem Guru on August 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm. Reply #

Lot of very interesting and thought-provoking comments – certainly most local parties need to sharpen up and we’re all guilty of going off the boil from time to time.
As to JK Rowliing – please forget all about her. She recently accepted an invitation to a fund-raising dinner, partly -in her honour, given by the Lib Dem- led council in Edinburgh. Halfway through the evening, she accepted a call from
the PM, agreed to donate £1m. to one of Sarah’s charities and then left the dinner hurriedly without thanking her
hosts. So please no more about her – fortunately, we do have other worthy celebs who support us and perhaps need to be politely nudged into a higher profile on our behalf.

by Mike Falchikov on August 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm. Reply #

KL: the party does both the things you suggest. It regularly surveys and contacts ex-member to find out why they’ve left. It also has a range of opt outs for people, e.g. from fundraising letters, from emails, from phone calls and so on.

One puzzle I’ve never really understood is why, at least in my experience, so few local parties take the attitude, “if some of our members are unhappy about some of the contacts they get, let’s make sure they know about their opt-out options”. Of course that doesn’t mean other parts of the party don’t have a role to play, but I think local parties can do rather more to make things work well for members.

When I was a local party membership secretary, we sent an annual survey which included various opt out options that worked well. I know some other local parties do – indeed I got the idea from another – but it’s an idea that could do with wider promotion and take up.

by Mark Pack on August 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm. Reply #

maybe mark you can answer my question as to why the pr/marketing strategies are in disarray and why there are so many, and so many incompetent pr/comms personnel employed for such a small party?

by Libdem Guru on August 7, 2009 at 12:34 am. Reply #

Libdem Guru: I don’t think either of your assertions are true. The party’s strategy isn’t in disarray, we’ve been slowly but steadily rising in the polls and there aren’t hordes of incompetent people working for it.

by Mark Pack on August 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm. Reply #

Mark Pack, i suggest that you realise it’s not only you that has; an insight into the workings of the Party, or the facts and figures of recent polls.And more importantly; the common knowledge of what swathes of the public think of certain Libdem personalities and modes of operation are blindingly obvious.

The Party, which I love dearly, needs a huge kick up the arse, getting rid of the dead wood and putting the likes of Charles Kennedy back on the front benches. “Slowly but steadily”, even from a ‘party insider’ (haha) will not win a general election. We both know that!!!

So get off your high horse and get these well paid layabouts who claim they are good at PR/Comms to sort out some decent PR/Advertsing which makes us look a viable AND credible third option.

Party members deserve it, and we’ve waited long enough to win a general election.

by Libdem Guru on August 16, 2009 at 12:49 am. Reply #

[…] Lots of familiar names on the 2009 Q1 list, with five/six-figure gifts coming from: Lord Alliance (£250k), Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (£205k), Anthony Wilkinson (£105k), C& C Business Solutions (£50k), George Lyon (£15.5k), Christopher Nicholson (£15k), and Andrew Haisley (£10k). Incidentally, as I understand it, Lord Alliance’s gift is the conversion of a loan to a donation, which represents a big boost to the party’s balance sheet – which is no bad thing, given the party’s deficit in 2008. […]

by Those Lib Dem donation figures in full (Q2, 2009) on August 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm. Reply #

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