The Mail on Sunday has revealed that the Labour Party plans to set a tithe on their councillors of 7%, 5% to go to their local parties and 2% to go to the party at the national level. Tithing is an old-fashioned word, most often used to describe regular sums paid by churchgoers to their churches, often a set percentage of their income.
Tithing is also a feature of political life. It is a highly corrupt practice. Typically councillors get to set their allowances as a group. By demanding tithes parties necessarily contribute towards the upwards pressure on councillorsâ€™ allowances.
Ed Milibandâ€™s proposal to take 7% off councillors is worth about Â£5 million to the Labour Party. This is a significant part of their current annual income in the order of Â£30 million per annum (see figures here: 2008, 2009, 2010).
Such tithes are against party rules for the Conservatives and internal party guidance states:
It is permissible for councillors to pay both to the local group and to the Party but payments to the Party must not come directly from the council nor should they be linked to the level of councillorsâ€™ expenses nor should they be compulsory.
The other main parties should follow the Toriesâ€™ lead and ban tithes. They are inherently corrupting. If political parties cannot persuade their own elected representatives to freely make a contribution you wonder why anyone else would want to contribute? Certainly taxpayers should not be forced to pay for political parties by the back door by a mechanism whereby parties levy representatives who in turn ramp up their own allowances and salaries to pay for these imposts.