The latest set of accounts for the Lib Dems have been published – I’ve uploaded it at the foot of this post. Here are 5 points that struck me I read through the document.
1) The party ended 2012 with a £410k deficit
The party recorded a £410k deficit, with £6m income and £6.4m expenditure. This is noted as a “disappointing result” and ascribed to the late receipt of a substantial legacy donation “which would have brought the result down to something much nearer to break-even”. Yet legacies are by their very nature unpredictable: it’s not something we can rely on this year. Ideally the party needs to break even on its regular incomings/outgoings and then be able to use windfalls for investment.
2) Membership falls again: it’s now 42,501, down 34% since 2010
“As at December 2012 there were 42,501 members of the Party.” This is a further 13% drop since last year, and a massive 35% drop since the heights of Cleggmania in 2010. What’s clear from the chart, though, is that this is in reality a continuation of a decline in membership evident over the past 15 years, which I explored here last year:
3) This has cut the party’s income
There is a clear connection between these first two points. The party lost £40k of income compared to 2011 as a result of losing members. More significantly, this has also had a knock-on impact on donations: these were down some £290k (16%) on the previous year. Conference income was also sharply down by c.£100k. Add the three together and you see where much of the party’s deficit has appeared from. However, the party states that its Finance & Administration Committee “has taken steps to ensure that satisfactory surpluses will be achieved in 2013 and 2014″.
4) But spending on campaigns went up
On the expenditure side, staff costs rose by 8% to £2.77m. Campaign expenditure increased by an astonishing 150%+, from £333k to £849k. Much of this (I’m guessing) was the result of the London GLA and mayoral campaigns, which was largely driven by fundraising.
5) Lib Dem News closed with a £60k deficit
In its final year of publication, the party’s newspaper Liberal Democrat News recorded a deficit of £60k. We’ll see next year how this compares with the new members’ magazine, Ad Lib.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.