And so we turn to the financial dealings of the BNP, as set out in the 2007 Accounts. Your author is not an accountant, nor an auditor - but I do have experience in drawing up (and auditing) accounts on a small scale, and of 'signing off' annual accounts on a much larger scale. So this is not a professional verdict, but comments from an informed onlooker.
The starting point of the Accounts is the report of Silver & Co, the BNP's Independent Auditor, with its startling conclusions that:
'In our opinion the financial statements do not:
- Give a true and fair view of the state of the party's affairs at 31st December 2007;
- Give a true and fair view of the results for the year then ended.'
Of course, Griffin gets his excuses in first by saying that "accounting...is problematic owing to the point-blank refusal of the former Head of Administration to account for large amounts of expenditure". (Translation - "It's all Kenny Smith's fault".) However, there are flaws in this excuse particularly given that "the party leader...has sole control of, and responsibility for...administration [and] finances". And that quote comes from Griffin's own introduction to those very Accounts.
So, if there are and/or were failings in the party's financial controls they were the responsibility of the leader - Griffin. Let's turn to the detailed Accounts (pages 14 on) and see what we discover.
Donation income is recorded as falling from £289,000 to £198,000 (down 32%). No explanation is offered, but it seems an odd development in a party which is supposedly growing.
On the other hand membership income is recorded as increasing from £145,000 to £201,354 (up 38%). This accompanies a claimed membership of 9,784 - against a 2006 figure of 6,281. There are a number of unconvincing elements to all this - a membership increase of 56% in a single year strains credulity, and the average subscription per member falls from £23.16 to £20.58. In previous years a (basic) breakdown of the membership was given; that is absent this year. The possibility of £5 'ghost' members to inflate the claimed membership springs to mind.
In 2006 fundraising and commercial activities grossed £285,000 - in 2007 this fell to £199,000 (down 30%). Worse still, since the costs incurred did not fall correspondingly, the net income fell by 70%! (This is an area where Griffin's spat with the "rebels" may have had an impact. Think of all that spending on Excalibur tat which switched to funding the Family Defence Fund!)
Overall, income fell by over £100,000 - from £726,455 to just £611,274; distinctly odd in a party clebrating a 56% membership increase...
As already mentioned, spending on commercial activities fell (but not as heavily as income). "Promotional expenditure" increased - whatever that was (there is no explanatory note).
Staff costs, management and administration costs (a past area of criticism from some of Griffin's internal rivals) fell slightly. Staff wages fell by around £18,000, presumably when Herr Griffin decided to dismiss various key members of staff! There were significant increases in bank service charges (from £800 to £5,800); bouncing cheques cost money! There is one interesting new expenditure line of £18,271 for "missing information". This is presumably the information supposedly withheld (according to Griffin) by Smith. But whilst the details of this expenditure may not be traceable, the fact of it having been spent is clearly established.
Previous complaints from Griffin's critics that the party centrally spent too little on campaigning has been partly addressed with "leaflet costs" expenditure rising from £19,000 to £45,000. But it's a little sneaky to hide party registration costs, rising from £25 to £1,276, under "campaign expenditure". The increase, of course, is largely down to the fine for late submission of accounts!
Total expenditure fell, from £708,000 to £662,000 - and my astute readers will have noted that 2006's surplus of £19,000 has been converted to a deficit of £50,582.
And so we turn to the page so loved by accountants and auditors - the Balance Sheet. Last year this (sort of!) showed the BNP making progress, with the accumulated deficit being reduced by that year's £19,000 surplus. This year the news is bleaker - so what is the BNP's current position?
Well, it has its fixed assets - valued at £48,728. Unfortunately, we are not talking land or property (traditionally the soundest form of fixed assets - after all, they generally appreciate in value!) No, the BNP's fixed assets are vehicles - try selling those for full value! - and "equipment" - mostly clapped-out printing equipment one assumes. Perhaps it is genuinely worth £48,000, but I wouldn't fancy trying to realise that value!
Then there are the current assets, or as the BNP charmingly puts it "current savings". At December 2006 these were spread across 12 different accounts, including no fewer than three for the lottery [listed as "British National Lottery", "British National Lottery" and "British National Lottery 2" - you couldn't make it up!]. Two of these were in deficit: "Halifax 1" by £99, and "Treasurer's Account" by £636. By December 2007 these deficits had increased to £621 and no less than £6,705. A further account, "Project Funding Account" had moved from a £139 balance to a £271 deficit. Five accounts simply vanished from the current assets, perhaps as part of the fall-out from the purge.
The overall effect of all this chaos was to reduce current assets to just £31,385. So, £31,000 in the bank (or several banks!), and up to £48,000 in fixed assets. What about liabilities?
Well, we can start by chalking off around £78,000 in advance payments - membership and other income relating to 2008 but received in 2007. That alone wipes out the assets of the party (and is the only way the party can actually hold any cash resources at December 2007). Add to this £21,000 in "accounts payable" - in other words, bills we should have paid but haven't paid. Then there's a mysterious £41,831 liability in respect of "British Heritage T Acxcount (sic). This didn't make any sense to me initially, until I discovered that it's money "borrowed" from the BNP's own Regional Accounting Unit! So the BNP even owes itself money!
And finally, there's a £20,492 liability for PAYE and VAT - yes, money that should have been paid to the government for those pesky schools and hospitals and so on.
Total liabilities - £161,103. Total assets - (an iffy) £80,990. Add in some hire purchase commitments and we have a BNP which owes at least £85,000 more than it possesses.
Looks like the siphoning off of Barnbrook's GLA money is going to have to be rapid and enthusiastic to head off a financial crisis. But will Barnbrook agree, merely to bail out the incompetence of his party leader who - in his own words - should take "sole control and responsibility for administration [and] finances".
In my final comment on the 2007 Party Accounts I shall clear up a few odds and ends, such as the strange on/off relationship between the party and some of its satellites, and why you shouldn't put all your eggs in one treasurer's basket!