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Lib Dems accused over advisers bill

Labour has accused the Liberal Democrats of failing to keep their pre-election promise to end taxpayer funding for party political ministerial advisers.

It claims Lib Dem special advisers, commonly known in Westminster as "spads", are costing the country more than £1 million a year despite previous pledges to make parties cover their own team's payroll bill.

Labour also seized on the appointment earlier this month of funding donor Neil Sherlock as Nick Clegg's director of government relations as further proof of the party "saying one thing and doing another".

The Lib Dems hit back by accusing Labour of "double standards" and pointing out that the highest number of spads employed by a Government - 85 - was under Tony Blair.

The advisers are paid a Whitehall salary but are allowed to give a political dimension to the work of Government and many are contact points for the media.

Labour cited a Lib Dem policy paper dating back to 2009 that criticised the then government's annual £5.9 million spad bill and claimed: "These are political jobs, and should, therefore, be funded by political parties". The paper added: "Special advisors will not be paid for by the taxpayer."

Labour MP Simon Danczuk said: "You could not make this up. Nick Clegg used to say that special advisers should be paid for by political parties, not out of public funds. But now he is reportedly appointing Neil Sherlock, who has given the Lib Dems nearly £85,000, as his own special adviser with a generous taxpayer-funded salary.

"We all know Nick Clegg has a problem keeping his promises. But if he has a shred of integrity left, he should at least make sure that he stands up for the principles he said he had, and pay his advisers' salaries out of his own party's funds rather than charging their services to the taxpayer. Neil Sherlock should not be rewarded for his donations to the Liberal Democrats with a publicly funded job.

"This is just one more example of Nick Clegg saying one thing before the election and doing another afterwards. It seems that when they decided to join David Cameron's Tories in Number 10, they left their principles at the door."

The Liberal Democrats pointed out that Labour now receives more than £9 million in taxpayer funding for opposition parties, known as short money.


From Belfast Telegraph