Fowler to leave Central Office with pounds 2m surplus

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The Independent Online
SIR NORMAN Fowler, chairman of the Conservative Party, is planning to answer critics by leaving the party headquarters with a pounds 2m surplus on the past year, writes Colin Brown.

Deep cuts in staffing and spending on publicity have enabled the party's Central Office to overturn a pounds 2m deficit last year. Party sources said yesterday that constituency and corporate donations were holding up, although they were down from pounds 20m in election year to pounds 7.8m by March 1993.

The party is hoping to regain the big donors for the next general election campaign despite reports that the Thatcher Foundation was poaching some. Sir Norman's cost-cutting strategy was aimed partly at reassuring supporters money was not being wasted.

He has cut staff numbers from 370 to 230 and has disclosed plans to put 300 trained agents in the field by Autumn 1995.

The party conference in October will be told that the party still faces a pounds 16.5m overdraft, but that has been reduced from pounds 19m.

Sir Norman, who has become a lightning conductor for Tory backbench criticism of the leadership, is expected to leave Central Office in July as part of a government reshuffle. It is clear he plans to bow out with an answer for his critics in the party accounts.