The Government has moved to make sharp cuts to state funding to Britain’s opposition parties.
So-called “short money”, an annual payment that has been paid to opposition parties since the 1970s, will be cut by 19 per cent subject to parliamentary approval.
Short money is not received by parties in Government and was introduced to allow oppositions to “more effectively fulfil their parliamentary functions”. It is generally used to employ parliamentary staff and meet political office costs.
The cut will affect Labour the most and also take significant chunks of funding from the SNP, Green Party and smaller regional parties.
The cut was not mentioned by George Osborne in his speech to the House of Commons but emerged later when full documentation was released.
The Government says the cost of short money has risen from £6.9 million in 2010-11 to £9.3 million in 2015-16.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, which campaigns for democratic reform, said the cut would be likely to damage government accountability.
“The decision to cut public funding for opposition parties by 19% is bad news for democracy. The UK already spends just a tenth of the European average on funding parties,” she said.
“Short Money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the government of the day to account. This cut could therefore be deeply damaging for accountability.”
The unilateral move by the Government to cut the payments is in contrast to the usual consensus approach taken on matters party funding form.
A Labour spokeswoman said it was an “anti-democratic move” by the Conservatives, accusing the government of “partisan moves to hit their opposition and give themselves another unfair advantage”.
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