Political reform group Unlock Democracy has called for the government to scrap its plans to introduce expensive elected police commissioner elections next year.
Instead, it wants to see the money channeled into political reform, along the lines of proposals put forward in the Westminster-based Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on the funding of political parties - which it broadly supports.
The director of Unlock Democracy, Peter Facey, commented: “We welcome the broad thrust of the proposals, although we will be examining them in detail over the next few days."
He continued: “The most crucial recommendation of the report is that there should be a cap on donations from individuals and organisations set at £10,000 per year. Such a policy is long overdue and will go a long way to shift the focus of political parties away from rich backers and towards mass public engagement."
“We are pleased the Committee has accepted our recommendations to consider trade union donations as an aggregation of individual members’ donations rather than as a single donation, on the condition the trade unions switch from an ‘opt out’ system to one requiring members to opt in. This proposal is not only fair to the other parties but we believe will benefit the Labour Party in the longer term. The effect of a similar reform in Canada has reinvigorated the New Democrats Party which has seen its electoral fortunes rise consistently over the past decade," said Mr Facey.
He added: “We are concerned that the proposal to give political parties a fixed rate according to the votes they receive will do nothing to encourage engagement with the public. A vote for a candidate does not necessarily indicate support for the candidate’s party, particularly given the current first past the post voting system. However, we welcome the proposals to introduce tax relief on membership fees and donations up to £1,000."
“We note that the cost of the proposals is roughly equal to the amount the government is planning to spend on directly elected police commissioners, starting next year. Scrapping these extra elections, for which there appears no demand, of which there have been no pilot studies and which will drive the cost of politics still further, would be a small price to pay to clean up politics. With Labour opposing these and the Liberal Democrats declining to even participate in them, the policy appears unsustainable in any case,” said the Unlock Democracy director.