Hard-up Tories cut HQ jobs

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The Independent Online
Staff at Conservative Party headquarters were warned yesterday to prepare for wholesale job cuts as the party prepares to fight the next general election against the background of a deep financial crisis.

The news, revealed in the Independent earlier this week, was given to staff by the party chairman, Jeremy Hanley. He told them that in the run-up to the general election, the party had to examine its organisational structure. Around 30 jobs from a total Central Office staff of 160 are likely to go immediately.

Priority had to be given to the "front-line campaign winning team", said Mr Hanley. This was taken to mean that the large constituency services section, which provides support to the Young Conservatives, Conservative Women, the trade union section and the multi-ethnic one nation forum, would feel the brunt of the cuts. "We have to concentrate on areas where we win votes," said a party spokesman.

The cutbacks are expected to save the party £1.5m - money which will be used to add 80 constituency agents in time for the next election, now less than two and a half years away.

The reduction in central manpower, believed to be unprecedented at this stage in the election cycle, is indicative of the party's inability to rid itself of crippling debts.

The Conservative Party is spending £1m a year just to service its overdraft of £16.5m. With donations currently thought to be running at £10m a year, the party is a long way short of the £30m required over the next two years to fully gear up for the election.