The Labour Party have been holding meetings at Hammersmith Town Hall without paying the required booking fees. On some evenings they have booked out every meeting room for different ward branches – including wards where they have no councillors.
There is a serious matter in a democracy. Council resources should not be used to subsidise one party rather than another. The Conservatives have also used the town hall for meetings but have paid the full fee.
It is reasonable for councillors, when discussing council business, to use a room at the town hall without paying – whether for the Conservative Group or Labour Group. The issue is that the Labour PARTY have been using rooms without payment (sometimes several rooms in one evening) for Party activists to discuss campaigning/wider Party business. Especially given the Conservatives have paid up for meetings of that nature.
The problem arose due to an internal booking system which relied on those making the bookings to state if a fee was due. The system was based on trust – and Labour proved themselves untrustworthy.
Jane West the Director of Finance tells me that “charges for room bookings have been made to both political parties in the past but not in a particularly efficient way.”
That is a diplomatic way of putting it. It would have been rather more efficient if Labour had paid what they owe rather than evading.
Jane adds “in future, when either the local Conservative Party or the local Labour Party wish to book one of the Committee Rooms, and the attendees for the meeting are mainly H&F councillors, we will not be making a charge for the booking. The rooms can be booked through the self-service system on the intranet.”
She has offered the Conservatives a rebate. But wouldn’t it be better for the Council Taxpayer if the Labour Party coughed up the fees owed for the vast amount of room bookings they have made for party political, rather than council business?