David Cameron is facing growing criticism of his move to shelter the international aid budget from cuts after it was revealed that it diverts millions of pounds to trade unions and controversial projects in the UK.
International Development is one of just two Whitehall departments – the other is Health – ring-fenced from the swingeing 25 per cent spending cuts announced by Chancellor George Osborne last week.
But critics are increasingly questioning whether its £6 billion-a-year budget should be spared – while Departments such as the Home Office could be forced to sack 35,000 police officers in the £113 billion deficit reduction package.
Research has found that, since 2003, the Department for International Development (DFID) has spent millions on projects including:
- £3.6 million to the Trades Union Congress.
- More than £1 million to teach nursery and primary school children in the UK about the ‘dangers of unequal global development’.
- £600,000 to an ethnic minority think-tank which has not published a report for almost three years.
- £300,000 to the National Union of Teachers to ‘enable them to become global agents of change’.
Last night, the Conservatives said DFID’s immunity from the cuts would remain – but a ‘full value-for-money review’ of its spending was promised.
The Prime Minister’s Election pledge to protect the health and overseas aid budgets was designed to neutralise Labour claims that the Tories would hit frontline services.
But it means the burden of Mr Osborne’s move to cut Whitehall by a quarter over four years will fall on Transport and the Home Office – which face cuts of up to 33 per cent as a result.
The policy came despite a pre-Election audit of the DFID, which identified £800 million of annual spending with dubious merit – including £35 million in aid to corrupt Uganda and an astonishing £825 million to nuclear-armed India over the three years from 2009.
The EU also receives £1 billion a year from the department to distribute to developing countries.
Now, research by the International Policy Network (IPN) think-tank has identified where much of DFID’s money goes in this country.
Since 2003, £3.6 million has been given to the TUC, including a £2.4 million handout in 2009 for ‘advocacy and lobbying work’ and ‘to build support for development in the United Kingdom’.
Of this, £756,000 went on a ‘Strategic Framework Partnership Agreement’ – to fund training for the TUC to learn how to apply for further DFID grants.
The department also found £600,000 to set up a UK think-tank called Connections For Development, which aims to ‘provide a forum for black and ethnic minority organisations on issues relating to international development’.