Clegg paid £9,000 to 'hire' crowd

THE Liberal Democrats spent almost £9,000 hiring an outside company to find audience members to attend five of Nick Clegg's "town hall" meetings.

A 2,000 invoice for one of the events was halved partly because of the "poor response" from members of the public.

Details of bills paid by the Lib Dems before and during the General Election campaign were released by the Electoral Commission watchdog.

Mr Clegg, MP for Hallam, used at least one town hall events to state it was "wrong" to allow students to be "saddled" with large debts. The Deputy PM will today vote in favour of lifting the tuition fee cap to up to 9,000 a year.

The Lib Dems paid Full House Audience Management 7,600 to find audiences for four meetings between April 10 and May 4 in Gateshead, Glasgow, Redcar in Cleveland and Richmond in London.

The party paid another 1,000 for the company to find an audience for Mr Clegg's 50th town hall meeting at a school in Dorset. The invoice had originally been 2,000 but it was reduced by half "due to short notice and poor response".

The company explained: "Although we worked on the event all the previous week the response was poor and many people already knew about the meeting."

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: "If they had to pay to get people along to hear Nick Clegg before the election, they would have to pay a lot more money now."

Labour's former chief whip Nick Brown said: "It is truly pathetic to pay a company to round up an audience to listen to your party leader."

But a Lib Dem spokesman said: "When Nick did town hall meetings we paid an independent firm to recruit the audience for us. That is the provision of security vetting and political neutrality.

"Rather than just have members, we thought we would open it up to other people. To do that we employed an audience-finding company."

He said seats were offered to party members through Facebook, but stressed none of the audience was paid.

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