Exclusive: Labour council pumping public funds in to Labour party coffers

MoneyLiberal Democrat Voice has been shown a Freedom of Information request which reveals that in the last four years Labour run Knowsley Council has paid over £47,000 from public coffers to the Labour party, to exhibit at its party conference.

The council’s Freedom of Information officer states “Knowsley exhibits at the Labour Party conference as part of it’s lobbying and positioning work.”

According to the same FOI request as a result of their annual conference bung to the Labour party, Knowsley Council claims to have secured “Ministerial and other VIP visits to the Borough” – perhaps a case of ‘cash for visits’? In any event we’d be interested to know whether government ministers would be prepared to confirm that they conduct official visits on the back of being lobbied by exhibitors paying tens of thousands of pounds to have a stand at their party’s conference.

Asked whether they paid to attend any other party conferences, the council said “Knowsley does not attend any other party political conference, it attends the Labour Party Annual Conference as the party in power.” We’d be interested to know whether Knowsley will be exhibiting at other party conferences if they form a new government? On the basis that they believe it is vital to lobby the party of government the logic suggests they should indeed exhibit at other party conferences when there is a change of government.

Knowsley’s conference lobbying activity began in 1998, the year after the Labour party took power nationally – and when Knowsley Labour party held 65 out of 66 Council seats, with one Liberal Democrat in opposition. The council could only supply their exhibiting costs for the past four years, so the true figure over eight years may in fact be double the £47243 we can be certain of.

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6 Comments

  • Richard Coxon 4th Jan '07 - 2:00pm

    Even worse, you’d think that a council that can spend £47,000 on publicity would know the difference between “its” and “it’s” …

  • Dave Smithson 5th Jan '07 - 4:03pm

    Re Alex Foster’s comment just for the record Labour hold only 49 of the 63 seats in Knowsley, the Lib Dems hold 12 and they are currently 2 vacancies (both Labour defences when the by-elections take place)
    Dave Smithson – Deputy Leader of Knowsley MBC Lib Dems

  • Tony Greaves 8th Jan '07 - 4:31pm

    Knowsley have also exhibited (as they say) at LD conferences.

    Struck me at the time as a Council wi’ more brass ner nous.

    Tony Greaves

  • hywelmorgan 8th Jan '07 - 9:30pm

    Liverpool exhibited at party conferences when they were doing their City of Culture bid. I still have a number of CD cases 🙂

    I’m pretty certain they did all three though as vaguely remember someone telling me they wanted to get rid of all the freebies they had so they didn’t have to pack them up to take off to the Tory conference.

    Most of the other authorities I remember exhibiting have been from the conference venue circuit – I could probably put together a list of who they were from my free pen collection 🙂

  • I think Rob has been, if anything, rather gentle on Knowsley Council. In addition to paying directly to the Labour Part over £47,000 (probably far greater if you include previous years) they have also spent a great deal of council taxpayer’s money on other activities relating to exhibiting solely at the Labour Party conference.

    Further to Tony Greaves comment, in their own words, Knowsley Council have only exhibited at the Labour Party conference since 2002. They also seem to be happy to defend such a policy.

    Anyhow, I thought people should see the whole FoE request and make their own mind up as to whether this is how a council should be spending money:

    Further to your recent telephone call, please find below the response in relation to your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Question 1

    Knowsley exhibits at the Labour Party conference as part of it’s lobbying and positioning work and has exhibited at the conference since 1998 ( except for 2002 when it took a break).

    Question 2

    As you may be aware we are only legally obliged to retain five years financial figures as such I am able to provide details from the date shown below. There are no costs for 2002 as we did not attend the Labour Party Conference that year.

    Labour Party Costs
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002

    Exhibition Space Rental
    9,750
    11,250
    11,518
    14,725
    Nil

    Construction of stand including staff for the construction
    11,438
    24,120
    32,946
    23,000
    Nil

    Fringe Event includes venue, refreshments, AV hire,
    4,604
    3,875
    4,760
    Nil *
    Nil

    Storage- never requested- storage at the back of the exhibition
    Nil
    Nil
    Nil
    Nil
    Nil

    Promotional Material
    2,625
    Nil **
    1,408
    3,259
    Nil

    Travel and Accommodation
    3,176
    5,908
    6,542
    1,889
    Nil

    *no fringe event in 2003

    ** Existing promotional material used so no additional costs incurred.

    The cost for staff time would vary greatly with regard to the level of seniority of the team and the number of hours actually worked on the stand. A typical example based on a core team of three members plus three additional staff over a five day period doing shifts of 31/2 hours each over a conference day would equate to approximately £389 per day x 5 days = £1945.

    Question 3

    Knowsley does not attend any other party political conference, it attends the Labour Party Annual Conference as the party in power.

    Question 4

    The Corporate Management Team based on the successful lobbying and positioning work that has been done over the past eight years which has resulted in Ministerial and other VIP visits to the Borough.

    If you should have any questions in relation to this response, please feel free to contact me either by replying to this e-mail or by calling the contact number shown below.

    Yours truly,

    Len Mitchell

    Information Officer

    Tel: (0151) 443 3836

    e-mail: [email protected]

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I would like to make the request for the following information:

    1. How many times has Knowsley Council had an exhibition stand at the Labour Party conference?

    2. What is the full cost to Knowsley Council of exhibiting at the Labour Party conference in Manchester this year? In terms of full cost I would like to be informed of costs relating to booking exhibition space from the Labour Party, the cost of construction of the stand and possible storage, the cost of travel and accommodation for people assembling the stand and finally the cost of staff time, travel and accommodation for people staffing the stand over a 5 day conference. If at all possible I would welcome similar figures being provided for every year that Knowsley Council has exhibited at the Labour Party conference and again I would welcome details being given of total expenditure for each and every item involved in exhbiting at the Labour Party conferece.

    3. Details of which other party political conferences (if any) that Knowsley Council exhibits at.

    4. Details of who makes the decision at Knowsley Council to have an exhibition stand at the Labour Party conference?

    I do hope a detailed reply can be given to all these questions.

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