The Tories have been fined £70,000 over “significant failures” in declaring election spending – and there could be worse to come as the party’s former Treasurer faces the possibility of a criminal investigation.
The Electoral Commission has this morning published a damning report details its investigation into Tory spending on the 2015 general election and a series of by-elections leading up to it.
It notes that the Tories “did not cooperate fully” with the Commission and at times “hindered and caused delay to the investigation.”
Despite that, it found:
- Spent at least £104,765 on the last general election that they did not declare – and “more likely a far higher figure.”
- Did not report or reported incorrectly another £118,124 in payments; including money which was registered as a central party spending rather than candidate spending.
- Did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924.
- Failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections – in Clacton, Newark and Rochester and Strood.
In a damning verdict, Electoral Commission chairman Sir John Holmes said:
“Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced Party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the Party’s spending was reported correctly. The rules established by Parliament for political parties and their finances are there to ensure transparency and accountability. Where the rules are not followed, it undermines voters’ confidence in our democratic processes, which is why political parties need to take their responsibilities under the legislation seriously.”
In addition, the party’s Treasurer at the time, Simon Day, has been referred to the Metropolitan police.
Day declared that the party’s spending return was to the best of his knowledge complied with electoral law. However the Electoral Commission said:
“The investigation established that the Party’s general election return was neither complete nor correct, and the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation has given the Commission reason to suspect that an offence may have been committed. Knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration under this section of the Act is a criminal offence and falls outside the remit of the Commission’s civil sanctioning powers. It will be a matter for the police as to what steps they take following the Commission’s referral.”
The report comes after it was revealed a dozen police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service that contain allegations that 20 Tory MPs broke spending limits at the 2015 general election.
It must be easy to lose track of it when you have so much money…