Tory Donors in Cash for Contracts deal
Author: Ruby Szarowicz
Published on Aug 22, 2012
£73m in government contracts has been won by a city firm training scheme which is owned by two Conservative donors. John Nash and Ryan Robson’s owned the Employment and Skills Group (ESG) which won the two lucrative contracts from the Department for Work and Pensions last week, despite allegations from the National Audit Office that the Work Programmes aims of finding work for 5m unemployed over the next four years are grossly exaggerated.
The Nashes have been featured in our Donor of the Week and have generously donated £182,500 to the Tories since 2006, while Mr. Robson has given £267,866 since 2003. With such big government contracts being given to firms owned by party donors, it seems ever more likely that the only way to end the big donor and cash for contracts culture is by putting a cap on hefty party donations.
In 2011, the Work Programme replaced all other government employment schemes and has since been criticised for forcing people into dead end jobs which are unlikely to improve their employment chances. The programme forces anyone who has been on Job Seekers Allowance for 12 months to take on a 4 weeks work programme in exchange for their benefits, and anyone who has been out of work for 2 years to take a full-time 35 hour a week community job in exchange for their £60.50 weekly payment. While job seekers are expected to work full time hours for less than minimum wage, the Employment and Skills Group will receive an £800 bonus for every claimant it places into full time work.
John Nash and Ryan Robson created the Employment and Skills Group in 2001 which was sold to Ares Capital investment bank last week for an undisclosed amount. When asked if the company had been sold for profit an ESG spokeswoman said, “I can’t imagine that anyone would sell something without”.
The shadow secretary of state for Work and Pensions Liam Byrne has condemned the cosy relationships between ministers, donors and companies and has said that the coalition should allow greater scrutiny of employment deals to create greater transparency. In addition, the Committee on Standards of Public Life has suggested that this transparency could be met by introducing a cap on all individual and corporate donations to political parties at £10,000 a year.
A £10,000 cap would have a big impact on the income of political parties; it would force them to live within their means and make focus on mass membership and fundraising from the many rather than a handful of wealthy individuals. As the rest of the country faces times of great austerity, it is more important than ever that political parties are seen to be working in the interests of the public and not for the interests of big party donors.