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Starmer back to accepting ‘inappropriate’ free staff from giant accounting firm

Practice ended in 2015 after condemnation – by Margaret Hodge – of firm’s ‘industrial scale’ tax-avoidance business, but has now resumed

Keir Starmer’s Labour party has resumed its old practice of accepting free staff as a ‘non-cash’ donation from giant accounting firm PWC, according to the latest Electoral Commission returns. The entry, first highlighted by Private Eye, shows that Labour accepted free staff to a value of more than £33,000 from the firm.

Such donations were commonplace in Labour from 2010-2014, ending in 2015 only after one Margaret Hodge MP, then-chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said it was ‘inappropriate’ for Labour to accept the donations in kind from PwC, whom she accused of ‘selling tax avoidance on an industrial scale’.

Current Starmer front-benchers such as Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Wes Streeting took similar support from PWC during its earlier phase. Margaret Hodge is not known to have objected to the new donations.

The party’s finances are said to be in a dire state, after a dramatic fall-off in the mass small donations Labour received under Jeremy Corbyn, a reduction in funding from the Unite union and an exodus of members disgusted with its direction under Keir Starmer. An attempt to court wealthy donors appears to have done little or nothing to plug the gap.

PwC told Private Eye:

These are generally junior staff who provide limited and fully disclosed technical support in areas where our expertise and knowledge of the business environment can help them better understand technical matters and the implications of policy proposals. We have no political affiliation and don’t develop policy on their behalf.

PwC might not ‘develop policy’ for Labour, but as well as now taking large donations in kind from the firm, the party is now allowing a significant input on the ‘implications of policy proposals’ from a giant company whose core business is helping other large firms make and conserve money. In 2014, the party received £600,000 of such ‘support’ from PwC to ‘help form tax policy’, including more than £60,000 to then-Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna.

PwC is one of several firms reportedly to act as ‘partners’ to the NHS in the allocation of private contracts under new Tory legislation. The Socialist Health Association (SHA), which is affiliated to the Labour party, strongly opposes the proposed new laws.

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