Unions may take stake in Labour's new headquarters as party cash crisis deepens

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Indy Politics

Trade Unions could take a stake in Labour's new headquarters to ease the party's deepening financial crisis.

Trade Unions could take a stake in Labour's new headquarters to ease the party's deepening financial crisis.

Party staff will vacate their head office in Millbank near the Houses of Parliament later this month after seven years because of a rent rise.

The party has bought the leasehold on a five-storey property in Old Queen Street, Westminster, with a mortgage of £5.5m. The unions, who advanced funding of £100,000 to the party last month, discussed whether to buy a share in the building at a meeting of the trade union liaison committee.

Yesterday, Mick Rix, general secretary of the rail union Aslef, said the idea had "generally been floated" as part of a discussion of ways of giving practical help to the party.

Labour's headquarters between 1980 and 1995 was at Walworth Road, in south London, and was owned by a trust funded by loans from unions. When it was sold, the unions recouped their investment.

A union source said a similar approach could be pursued at Old Queen Street. He said: "There was sympathy for the idea and it is being seriously examined." Mr Rix said unions were also considering earlier payments of affiliation fees and said he supported the idea of wealthier members paying higher membership fees.

The party is at least £6m in debt after a severe slump in donations from business and the unions. Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, the CWU, which withdrew £500,000 of funding, said: "We are not trying to bankrupt the party. We want to keep the link, but we want to see it develop policies our members voted for."

Mr Hayes also hit out at the Government after The Independent revealed yesterday that ministers had drawn up emergency plans to use a commercial company to keep mail deliveries running during a threatened postal strike.

He warned: "I thought governments were about not intervening in disputes, and this seems to me like Government intervening in a dispute on the side of an employer."

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