Electoral Commission publishes general election spending returns for larger parties

By agency reporter
March 20, 2018

Seven political parties and two non-party campaigners reported spending a total of just under £40 million at the 2017 UK Parliamentary general election, as shown in new figures published on 19 March 2018 by the Electoral Commission.

Political parties and non-party campaigners that spent over £250,000 during the regulated period for the general election – which ran from Thursday 9 June 2016 to polling day, Thursday 8 June 2017 – were required by law to submit audited spending returns to the Commission by 8 December 2017.

The political parties in Great Britain that reported spending greater than £250,000:

  • Conservative and Unionist Party (GB) £18,565,102
  • Labour Party £11,003,980
  • Liberal Democrats £6,788,316
  • Scottish National Party (SNP) £1,623,127
  • Green Party £299,352
  • Women’s Equality Party £285,662
  • UK Independence Party (UKIP) £273,104

The two non-party campaigners that reported spending greater than £250,000:

  • UK-EU Open Policy Limited (Best for Britain) £353,118
  • Union of Teachers £326,306

While preparing the spending returns for publication, it was necessary for the Commission to liaise with a number of parties and non-party campaigners to obtain additional information, to ensure when published, their spending returns as far as possible complied with the legal requirements. It has become necessary for the Commission to open investigations in some instances to determine the extent of compliance with the requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000 when the returns were initially submitted. These investigations will examine whether or not the rules in PPERA were broken, and if they were, appropriate sanctions will be imposed.

Details of enforcement action relating to political parties

  • The Conservative Party, Green Party and the Labour Party are under investigation for submitting spending returns that were missing invoices and for submitting potentially inaccurate statements of payments made.
  • The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats are under investigation for making multiple payments to suppliers where either the claim for payment was received past the 30 day deadline or it was paid after the 60 day deadline following the election. These deadlines are specified in law.
  • The Women’s Equality Party is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was inconsistent with its donation reports covering the same period.

Details of enforcement action relating to non-party campaigners

  • Best for Britain is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing invoices. The campaigner is also under investigation for not returning a £25,000 donation from an impermissible donor within 30 days as required by PPERA.
  • The National Union of Teachers is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing an invoice.

Bob Posner, Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel at the Electoral Commission, said: “It is vital that voters are given an opportunity to see accurate and full reportable data on what parties and campaigners spent money on in order to influence them at last year’s general election. This provides transparency in the political finance system and is open for anyone to scrutinise.

“We are investigating possible breaches of the rules. However, our on-going discussions with the major parties indicate to us that they may wish to consider the robustness of their internal governance and level of resourcing to ensure they can deliver what the law requires.”

Taking into account the Commission’s November publication of political parties and non-party campaigners that spent £250,000 or less, the release of the information means there was a total reported spend by a combination of 75 parties and 18 non-party campaigners of £41,587,450 at the 2017 general election. In comparison, at the 2015 General Election there was a total reported spend of £39,023,564 by 57 parties and 23 non-party campaigners.

In addition to the overall expenditure, political parties and non-party campaigners allocate all spending against one of nine categories. Details by category, as well as copies of individual invoices and receipts can be found on the Commission’s website here.

* The investigations that have been opened are in line with the Commission’s Enforcement Policy. Details of all sanctions are published on a monthly basis. The time taken to undertake an investigation varies on a case-by-case basis

* Read the Electoral Commission's November report here

* The Electoral Commission https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

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