You have seen the news with commentators and business journalists pouring over Tax Credit changes and cuts to the Bloc Grant, but one cut that really caught my eye was this little gem buried in the Autumn Statement on Page 76 which is benignly titled “Reducing the Cost of Politics” and states;
Wait, what is short money? The BBC website explains;
The original idea was to create more of a level-playing field for opposition parties. The governing party has access to the full might of the civil service machine to formulate its policies. To hold ministers properly to account, opposition party MPs should be able to employ researchers and carry out detailed policy work. That was the thinking. It is meant to be used on policy research for frontbench spokesmen and to pay staff salaries in the Whips and leader of the opposition’s offices. It is not meant to be used for political campaigning or paying staff salaries at party HQ.
Who gets it?
To qualify for Short money, a party must have at least two MPs or one MP and more than 150,000 votes. The amount payable to qualifying parties is £16,956.86 for every seat won at the most recent election plus £33.86 for every 200 votes gained by the party. There is also a travel fund of £183,336 which is shared between the parties in line with the same formula. In addition, the Leader of the Opposition’s office is entitled to about £777,500 to help with running costs. The parties receive a monthly payment.
This announcement, if passed by the House of Commons, will have an impact on our local parties as the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and UUP all are entitled to short money.
Below is the table of the entitlement that each party receives at the moment;
DUP-£31,698.46p (£126,792 over a four year period)
Sinn Fein-£18,554.45p (£74,216 over four years)
SDLP-£12,875.35p (£51,500 over four years)
UUP-£10,142.96p. (£40, 568 over four years).
These figures don’t include changes to the Policy Development Grant which will also hit the parties here. But again as a health warning, these changes need to be voted on by the Commons and things could change, but on the basis of what is in the Autumn Statement and the current figures this is what we are looking at.
The only party that can be slightly happy is the UUP as they have still benefited from coming from no MPs to having two. They are still much better of financially.
Interesting that in the grand scheme of the savings needed this is all relatively small money and yet Osborne has decided to target this area.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs