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Lib Dems fund party with 10% levy on ministerial pay

Michael Crick | 10:14 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Nick Clegg and his 19 fellow Liberal Democrat ministers are giving around 10% of their ministerial salaries to the party.

I was the first to report - here last May - that the Liberal Democrats were fighting to keep Short money, the state funds given to opposition parties, which was worth around £1.75m a year until the Lib Dems joined the Coalition government.

The Lib Dems lost that fight, which meant the party had to make more than 20 staff redundant, though many of them got jobs in government.

Instead the Lib Dems have found a clever way of exploiting their new government status to make up some of the lost income - what's effectively a tithe on their new incomes.

"We are asked [to do it] rather than have to," one minister tells me. "Much like councillors in local authorities who are usually asked to pay something to the party if they get an extra allowance."

Indeed Lib Dem councillors and MPs have been paying a 10% tithe to the party for years (and in Harrogate one councillor lost the whip and was deselected for refusing to pay it).

So how much is this new source of income worth?

Cabinet ministers get almost £80,000 extra on top of their pay as MPs. Ministers of state get £41,000 more; and under-secretaries an extra £31,000.

So the 20 Lib Dem ministers collectively earn about £900,000 a year on top of their Commons salaries (or allowances as peers).

Ten per cent of that would be about £90,000 a year, diverted from their individual incomes to the benefit of the Liberal Democrat HQ in Cowley Street.

It's nothing like what they used to get from Short money, of course. But still, it's a start.

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