One in five Tory party workers to lose jobs

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Indy Politics
THE Conservative Party yesterday cut 61 of its own jobs - more than one in five - and restructured itself in an attempt to tackle an awesome pounds 19m deficit.

Of the job losses, 42 will be compulsory along with other early retirements, half at Central Office and half outside. That will take current staffing, which hit a peak of over 350 at the general election, down to 228. The compensation offered means the redundancies will cost only pounds 100,000- pounds 200,000.

An appeal is to be launched to wipe out by 1996 the pounds 19m deficit - which until last year was growing at pounds 5m a year. A new structure, with a board of management, will make Central Office and the independent constituency associations more accountable to each other, Sir Norman Fowler, the party chairman, said.

He combined his announcement - which failed to satisfy critics of the Tories' internal democracy - with a commitment to his job which came close to ruling himself out as a replacement Chancellor for Norman Lamont.

While he said any decision was for the Prime Minister, 'it is important that the Conservative Party has a chairman who sticks with the job and gives the kind of leadership that's necessary at this stage in its development'. The reforms were the most comprehensive in 60 years. 'I would like to see them through,' he said.

In future, the chairman would not be able to 'take any particular action, whether renovation or anything of that kind, without putting it to the board', Sir Norman said, an apparent dig at the pounds 5m Smith Square refit undertaken when Kenneth Baker was chairman.

Current spending is being cut from pounds 12m to pounds 7m next year. Sir Norman said the problem had not been income, with more than pounds 50m raised in the past four years, but spending.

The internal Tory pressure group, the Party Reform Steering Committee, said the changes still failed to address the central issue of accountability.

Michael Normington, its chairman, said it wanted at least half the board directly elected, not the indirect election of three places in thirteen. 'We outlawed that form of election for the trade unions in the early 1980s, yet we are not prepared to do it for ourselves,' he said. 'While we introduce accountability in public life we fail to do it on our own doorstep.'

The committee claims the backing of the 50 constituencies needed to call a special Conservative Central Council meeting to argue its case. Sir Norman said such issues could be raised at the normal Central Council meeting in March.

The party would publish annual reports, he said, and 'would try to give more information' in the accounts. But after Labour attacks on the sources of Tory cash - including large individual donations from abroad - Sir Norman said: 'We are not going to start publishing a list of donors.'

Cash from the constituencies now makes up only 10 per cent of funds, against 30 per cent at its peak, the remainder coming from company and individual donations, fund-raising and sales.