Political parties accept over £250,000 in furlough cash

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MoneyImage source, PA Media

Political parties in the UK reported accepting over £250,000 in furlough funds between 1 April and 30 June.

As part of the government's coronavirus response, employers were able to claim up to 80% of staff salaries.

Under the furlough scheme, the Lib Dems claimed £178,907, the Conservatives £70,164 and Labour £9,914.

The figures, published by the Electoral Commission, show that altogether political parties reported accepting £9.1m in donations and public funds.

The amount is a significant drop from the same period last year when donations reached £16m.

The Conservatives topped the list for donations (excluding public funds such as furlough money), reporting £2.3m.

'Protecting jobs'

Labour were the second highest on £1.8m, followed by the Liberal Democrats who reported £718,217.

Most of the furlough money was claimed by local branches of the parties rather than the central office.

The SNP reported £92,732 in donations and £458,346 in public funds. The party says it has not taken any furlough money.

In addition to furlough funds, public funds can also refer to cash given to opposition parties by the UK and Scottish Parliaments to pay for researchers and staff.

In total Labour accepted £2.2m in public funds, the Liberal Democrats £537,114 and the Conservatives £236,102.

Louise Edwards, director of regulation at the Electoral Commission said: "Publishing this data allows voters to see clearly how parties in the United Kingdom are being funded, enhancing public confidence and trust in our democratic processes.

"We welcome the fact that many parties have delivered their donation reports to us on time despite the challenging circumstances caused by Covid-19. Where parties have been unable to meet deadlines for reasons relating to the pandemic, we will continue to work with them to ensure their income remains transparent."

A Conservative spokesman said Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters had not furloughed any member of its staff.

"Local political associations are, however, no different from other voluntary sector organisations in facing challenging times. The purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is to encourage organisations to keep on furloughed workers and prevent local job losses," a spokesperson said.

"This funding from the Coronavirus job retention scheme has been openly published, and all payments are in line with the prevailing guidance from HMRC and the Electoral Commission."

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: "The decision to use the furlough scheme was, like many organisations across the UK, built around keeping people safe and protecting people's jobs."

It is understood that the national Labour Party has not furloughed staff on the job retention scheme.