UK Libertarian Party’s 2011 Accounts

I have received a PDF copy of LPUK’s 2011 accounts from a former member*, and can provide an updated calculation of the LPUK’s bank balance. Assuming they are authentic the balance as at 31st Dec 2011 should have been £4307.32. I would encourage anyone with an acknowledged membership* of that party to request sight of the three relevant bank and paypal statements to confirm the total of their balances match £4307.32.

The statements acknowledge the receipt of a loan, presumably the loan from Nic Coome which he mentioned at the meeting last October. This loan from Nic was apparently given to keep the party solvent, but the accounts do not include any explaination as to why the loan of £414 was required when the cash position at the end of the period was ten times that figure.

I maintain my position that accounts filed do not accurately reflect the parties real transactions, and strongly suggest members and donors demand a detailed explaination. Ideally that explaination should be made public in order to clear the air and make LPUK an organisation that people can be comfortable dealing with. The launch of the Independent Libertarian Network this week is welcome, but there is a role for a tightly co-ordinated team taking part in elections and if LPUK is not it, then it should leave the field.

My last update on this topic, covered the basic maths involved in calculating the bank balance figure based on the published data.

I was not able to verify the accounts I received on the EC website, which said they have not been filed yet.

An excerpt showing the 2011 income net of expenses (centre left), and part of the leaders’ signatures which were redacted at source.

* I’m uncertain, but anyone who was a member in April 2011 might still be a member to this day, or were at least until March 2012, but the current leadership deny this is the case and life is too short to argue.

LPUK’s accounts investigation update

Back in October people were looking to me to work with Nic Coome to establish some transparency in the LPUK accounts, the idea was to try to heal the rift by establishing what had happened, if anything, to all the money. Recall that various accusations had destroyed trust in the leadership and caused a bust up. I am now going to report on how that investigation went, though I am sorry I did not get far.

At our meeting in October, there was anger and concern at what had occurred when the NCC and then the membership were both refused access to the accounts back in April 2011. This time Nic promised that “the bulk of it” (that’s the expenditure) could be accounted for and we left with the impression we would now see some detail from the ledgers. We had agreed a reasonable and mature standard that it was okay if some of it could not be fully explained.

After that, I corresponded with Nic and received copies of the NI and GB statements, which were already available online at the Electoral Commission. Rather than complaining that I had received nothing new, I set about doing what I do to my own accounts every year – checking the bank balance was correctly reflected.

Theory and Maths

Care should be taken never to mislead by giving incorrect data in financial statements because they are used to judge the overall financial state of an enterprise. Diligent firms will check the statements before extending significant credit to a company and they expect them to be a true guide. The cash flow statement, which the LPUK accounts strongly resemble, is there specifically as a guide to whether short term cash might be found to pay a bill.

Knowing the bank balance is an important check on the accounts. Statements of account for a commercial company would contain a cash at bank value that should match exactly to the bank statement. You might have judged that the cash flow out of the enterprise is manageable but what if the real rate of spending was higher? The bank balance check tells you if it could have been higher. Also, a large current account balance tells you how much money was physically there in the bank account at year end, making it easy to judge whether your bill might be paid.

LPUK’s statements don’t include a balance but luckily there is a direct relationship between cash flow and the final balance and you can calculate the latter:

If we that assume an enterprise:

a) starts with £0,

b) has annual income of £2, and

c) expenses of £1

then over three years (2-1)+(2-1)+(2-1)=3 is what you expect to see in the bank at the end.

It’s also worth knowing that (2-1) on it’s own is called your “net annual income”, £1 in this example.

1+1+1 also equals 3 proving the sum of net income is a handy shortcut to the balance.

LPUK’s figures

In 2007 Patrick Vessey filed a nil return for the annual accounts. Zero in and zero out. The rest of the information you need is all given for comparison purposes in the 2010 accounts for GB and NI parties, which are accounted for separately.

I added up all the net annual income values and got £4307.03, here are the same figures excerpted from the public documents.

Click through for the full PDF version downloaded from the Electoral Commission:

GB Accounts, 2010

NI accounts, 2010

It is now neccesary to speculate what the bank balance was supposed to be on 31st December 2010. That’s the value for comparison and unfortunately Nic Coome’s co-operation ended when I asked for it by email in October 2011. I did chase for this again in December 2011, on 12th March 2012 (Monday last), and again via Facebook. No acknowledgement of any kind was received.

The balance figures I have seen relate to a single bank account and average around £100 in November 2010 and about £60 in April 2011. I had to get those from NCC members on this side of the rift, but they demonstrate that LPUK’s balance was small and varied only by tens of pounds.

There was also a rumour of a £0.26 balance no later than May 2011, and at the October 2011 meeting Nic Coome mentioned that he put in £500 of his own. The Party also owes my company £30 from June 2011.

What might this mean?

The accounts investigation has yielded no new data so I can only give my opinion. First, let’s visualise that the facts and rumoured values listed above, and add a line to fill in the blanks by assuming a gradual change in the financial posiotn of the LPUK:

LPUKNumbersViz

Visualisation of confirmed value, the calculated December value, confirmed and rumoured values, total debt; and assumed changes (dotted) for LPUK’s primary bank account balance.

The party was not used to getting large amounts in donations, so we would not expect the balance to change by more than a few hundred pounds at a time. As such the balance implied in the statement of accounts is, at best, surprising. To be accurate it must have risen then fallen again by £4200. What explains that yo-yoing? What good reason is there for the bank balance to be such a secret that the reconciliation must be called off without a further word?

We know that the Party used a second account to process incoming donations, and also used Paypal. If at least £4200 of donations were received in November or remained unprocessed from earlier then the matter can be left here, but that would have represented a dramatic peak in donations. I believe it is unlikely that £4200 suddenly appeared only to disappear again by April. Also the receipt of that much money would still leave a question over why the party had to maintain £530 of debt the following year.

Andrew might have taken a loan from the Party account, which might be legit but certainly should have been disclosed when the original scandal over his unpaid personal loans hit the blogs.

Given the above, it is reasonable, I believe, to conclude that there is an accounting discrepancy of approximately £4200 to be resolved.

The most important thing to observe is the behaviour of the leadership team. There has been no private reply to me on these questions, no refusal, not even an acknowledgement. There has not been a single public statement acknowledging my query regarding the bank balance, despite a week and five months being given for the Party’s team to prepare one. This is not how I believe a libertarian party should respond to queries from concerned libertarians.

I hope that this article will finally prompt the disclosure of the bank balance value and supporting evidence. It is hard to imagine good reasons which might have delayed it’s publication. This figure should always have been discernable from the public statements and there are no privacy concerns about it for individuals since it is a single number. If it were somehow private, the time to disclose it confidentially was five months ago. Had it been disclosed my investigation could have moved on and been much more useful to the Party and to the libertarian movement as a whole.

By the summer of 2011 most activists I know had decided it was “him or me” with regards to the scandalised leader and other NCC members. Yet the leader ultimately insisted on staying on and fighting against measures others were taking to preserve the Party. That caused the rift we were attempting to cure in October. Presumably the chairman has been acting in consultation with the leader and his nominated NCC, and for them to play hot and cold to an investigation that was a declared prerequisite to a reconciliation was not in the true best interests of the Party. Ultimately, the South East region continued to hold meetups dissassociated from the Party and the success of those meetups shows what the Party is missing out on by electing to act as it has. For example, had the rift been cured it would have been the Libertarian Party of the UK visiting Occupy LSX at St Pauls cathedral and distributing leaflets to a third of the gathered crowd, not “an internet forum” called Libertarian Home. This closed and secretive behaviour should stop.

Finally, it is important that this discrepency is dealt with. At a minimum the 2011 accounts, due shortly, should leave no false impression that it’s net worth is over £4300 when the Party is in debt to it’s activists and officers.

 

 

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the 2012 AGM minutes do not include a statement on this issue. Nic Coome did address the issue of multiple bank accounts citing a lack of awareness of HSBC’s standard procedures on the part of unnamed critics. He may be referring to other critics, but in fact I also bank with HSBC and am aware that the Money Manager account he refers to cannot be used directly for spending purposes, therefore the bank accounts I saw must be the main account as spending was incurred against it. Nic’s comment amounts to a claim that the Money Manager account (+PayPal) contained £4200 which was fully spent within 5 months. This should be trivial to verify, yet has still not been verified. There has been no further comment or communication as of 11/04/12.

UPDATE 28-04-2012: in a party statement “NCC NOTE – 25-04-12” (also labelled NCC NOTE GAVIN WEBB) is a breif mention that the investigation was ignored because none of the people at a key meeting were members. This was not in fact the case. As noted above the rift is not in the interests of the movement so I have once again contacted Nic and Andrew to clarify.

UPDATE June 2013: Wither’s has not contacted the author or provided any further information.

Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support

I have only recently joined the Libertarian Party, so I am not entirely involved in the history which has led to some accusations being made against its leader, Andrew Withers. I only know one side of the story, and that is the side which has made such accusations which I do not wish to dwell on, yet I think it is important for me to pledge my commitment to the Libertarian Party, not because I have some personal loyalty to its leader or his confidantes, but because I am a libertarian, and I believe that in order to advance the cause of libertarian thinking on a legitimate political platform, the party must be united. I am new to this, so forgive me if there are things I am missing. The purpose of this piece is not for me to say that we should forget about the personal accusations made against various members, but that these accusations should be dealt with, the bad blood should be put out in the open, if not for the personal sakes of those involved, but for the benefit of the party as a whole.

I believe in libertarian ideas. For as long as I can remember I have always seen the goings on in the world from the perspective of the enhancement of individual liberty. My discovery of the party was a god-send for me who up until last year, was effectively a fish out of water when it came to political alignment. The conservatives have betrayed their Conservative roots, UKIP are pigeon-holed as a one policy party, and there is simply no other place for libertarian thinkers to turn when it comes to libertarian politics other than LPUK. Perhaps it is an overly sentimental approach to take, but through conversations I have had with other fellow libertarians, they are of the idea that we are entering a new age of libertarian politics, but with the party struggling to hold it together, there is little hope.

The only way we as Libertarians can truly change things is not through joining the libertarian minorities of the top parties (as the top rank will simply not allow it), but it is dealing with the accusations made against the leader, laying all cards on the table and simply moving on. Any arguments or disagreements that may have come before MUST be dealt with or set aside so that we as a party can move on and make true progress. The AGM is the starting point for this. Hopefully Withers will be willing to deal with questions about the various accusations made against him; if he is, then I applaud him for having the courage to do so. LPUK will always have my support because I believe in the politics, to truly change the system we must separate ourselves from the establishment parties and we must present a united front, with a voice distinct from the establishment. From a personal perspective, I have considered running for public office, perhaps for the local council at first, then for Parliament, but I would not want to run as a candidate for the Conservatives, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, I would want to run as a Libertarian Party candidate, but the only way I could morally do that is if I have faith that not only the party would still exist in 5 years, but that the arguments and the accusations, that threaten to destroy the party, have been resolved.

All of the people cannot agree all of the time, but I have absolute faith that if we all truly believe libertarian politics has a place in the political mainstream, then we must all be willing to get behind the party in order to achieve such legitimacy. If we can get one party member in a local council, just one, then we have made the first significant step on the road to changing the country for the better.

AGM venue announced (LPUK AGM)

It is for the sake of completeness only that I note that Andrew Withers has announced the venue for the LPUK annual general meeting. This meeting is not recommended even for the brave of heart.

Party AGM 24th March 2012 10am

Committee Room 2 Clevedon Town Council

44 Old Street Clevedon North Somerset

Membership Card required for entry and £5 towards venue costs

The choice of Clevedon as venue and the 10am start speaks volumes about Andrew’s willingness to face his critics. Since facing down the accusations made against him is a prerequisite to success for LPUK, this attitude highlights the negative outlook for the party. I continue to feel concern for those people involved in this group, they seem enthusiastic and to have good intentions. Members might have wished to received an explaination about his conduct well ahead of this meeting, but none has been received and attempts to get basic financial information via Nic Coome have also come to nothing.

In other news Wikipedia have deleted the LPUK entry, stating that the Party is not noteworthy. Part of me still wishes that this was not the case, but it is perhaps for the best that this wayward entity no longer has the status afforded by an entry in the worlds most comprehensive free encyclopedia. If it means to be noted, it must earn the privilege.

It is now Sunday. Let’s start fresh on Monday.

Meeting with Nic Coome

The Southwark Drinks were attended last night by Nic Coome, who is registered with the EC as chairman of the Libertarian Party UK. The party is currenlty split with a rump of legally registered officers and the NCC’s appointees claiming the same posts*.  We’d heard from Tim Carpenter for the NCC as he lives locally, but it was the first time anyone from the rump had come to London to talk to activists down here and I’d like to thank Nic for taking the time to enter the lions den in the way he did**.

The mood

For the most part the meeting was good natured. We spent half the time stood in the bar picking up random threads of libertarian politics, but the landlord found us a room upstairs and the real debate started. Richard took the lead expressing the anger we felt about what happened in April and taking up the topic of the SGM and financial transparency. There were a few heated exchanges, which frankly seemed unnecessary as the questions were focused on Andrew’s role, but overall the tone had improved greatly since April. Richard and Nic were magnanimous and shook hands at the end.

Action points

Rob brought the conversation back around to what might be done to sort out the disagreement. After a detailed discussion about what might be possible, Nic left for his train with two messages to the rump officers:

  • The South East wants a meeting with Andrew Withers to discuss the accounts, the records that exist, and how much really has gone unnaccounted for. We could go to him, or we could meet in the middle.
  • They want to see the data. We set the expectation that we expected any small operation to have a difficulty tracking every small amount and Nic set the expectation that the bulk could be accounted for. We discussed top down break downs versus bottom up summation and the concensus was that we wanted to be able to drill down to individual items, and see receipts.

Post mortem

I was surprised afterwards by how quickly discussion about Nic and Andrew died down. The LPUK is seen as one option amoungst many, and to some extent the conditions for taking part are set (for some, I expect they will be greater). No one was particularly hopeful about the restoration of trust between the sides, and we ended up discussing the minutiae of different ways to effect social change, perhaps without even participating in elections.

Richard again promised to pitch to us his idea of a London based association and my attempt to introduce the concept of free-market Sarvodaya was met with blank looks, so more blogging on these topics soon.

* though this particular argument seems to have gone quiet

** and Pavel for suggesting it

LPUK Blogspot revived?

As if things couldn’t get any weirder after Simon’s last post on the matter, the old LPUK blogspot site has now been revived with a notice that was posted Monday 25th July stating the following:

For the past three months the Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom has been unable to have a say on national and international events, instead concentrating on internal disputes.

While a few have dedicated their time to hitting the keyboard with the daily hate, it has been necessary for the legally responsible officers to move forward with tasks that will see the continued existence of the Libertarian Party.

On the 29th June the party faced a mandatory de-registration by the Electoral Commission,a situation that the responsible officers have so far prevented from happening. We are also pleased that the financial plan in place with the Electoral Commission has succeeded and the party again enjoys solvency. Operational Standing orders are in place for financial matters overseen by a committee of four Libertarian Party UK members.

The membership function was returned to the officers at the beginning of June and all members that have maintained their membership will shortly be receiving an outline of an action plan to take the party through to 2012 via the postal services.

On Friday 22nd July 2011, the responsible officers received a letter from the Electoral Commission that gave an ‘avoidance of doubt’ position as far as the Law is concerned. This is already available to the NCC and will be copied to all current party members.

The Party has a new website under construction http://www.libertarianpartyuk.com.

It will be designed to promote the Libertarian Party UK to the public, to outline our policies,provide party news, information and contact details, to promote regional party affiliations and to respond to political matters on behalf of the Party. It will not be a ‘blog’ where you can vent your spleen and repel the public.

Many ideas have been put forward on the future of the party, some good, some bad and many that are unworkable for a political party within the constraints of its legal obligations. However as some of these have come from outside the party they cannot be considered as amendments to the current constitution any more than we could draw up alternative constitutions for other parties

It is time to move forward. Those who wish to see the party prosper will stay with the party, whilst those who wish it harm will continue to attack it at every level and we bid them farewell. We will not indulge in flame wars and will use all influence to prevent such attacks on others.

The violent imagery of stringing up politicians and stabbing them until they bleed to death is puerile and narcissist.It has no place in a political party likewise it has no place in the Libertarian lexicon. Norway is currently counting the cost of such imagery by one alleged destructive and deranged individual.

We see the party slowly moving out of the Internet arena as its primary engagement mechanism, and happy that engaging with the public directly is proving more conducive.Our aim is to quicken the pace in this respect.

In 1944 Hayek said the words Liberty and Freedom were the most abused words in the English language and all we were left with is tolerance. Sixty years on that tolerance is under threat

Nic Coome

Party Chairman
Libertarian Party

Ignoring for now the snide references to a daily hate; what really knocked my socks off is how this was supposedly posted by Nic Coombe as Chairman (though was actually published by Ian PJ). Given that Nic had resigned from the party in May and together with Andrew Withers had tried to deregister the party I am at a loss to explain what is going on.

When I first read this earlier today there were four contributors the site listed, Ian, Andrew, Nic and someone called ‘Flatdog’. I’m guessing that these four are the  committee mentioned that is ‘overseeing Operational Standing orders… in place for financial matters’, and that somehow Andrew (who was refusing to sign any of the paperwork to allow new officers to take up positions  when the previous officers resigned) has drafted them in to fill as new officials.

It would seem then that there are now two groups trying to assume control of the party, one consisting of those whose conduct caused the crisis, whose names are down with the Electoral Commission as registered officials, and the other of those who have been trying to move forward but have been blocked by the first group.  If it were come down to arbitration I suspect sadly that the   Electoral Comission would have to declare Withers’ group the legitimate party officials.

Given the conduct of this group over the past few months I almost wish they had deregistered the party back in May, better it be dead and buried than in the hands of someone who’s continued involvement will only repel the public. I would urge all members to refuse to give any money to the party as long as this group is in charge and hopefully starve it through lack of funds.

The message to members from this post seems to be ‘forget the past and keep sending in your hard earned cash’. Well if I were to receive a renewal notice in November my response is going to be ‘Get stuffed, Andrew Withers’.