Conservatives fined record £70,000 by election watchdog over expenses probe
"Significant failures" in Tory election spending, according to Electoral Commission
Conservative Battlebus - credit Nic Gould
The Conservatives have been fined a record £70,000 over hundreds of thouands of pounds-worth of missing or unreported payments during the 2015 general election.
In a damaging blow for the party, the Electoral Commission said there were "significant failures" in the way it had recorded its spending during the campaign.
One alleged breach of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums (Civil Sanctions) Order 2010 has also been referred to the police to decide whether a criminal act has taken place, the Commission said.
Findings published this morning show the Tories' 2015 spending return was missing payments worth at least £104,765.
Separately, payments worth up to £118,124 were either not reported to the Commission or were incorrectly reported by the party.
And in addition, the party did not include the required invoices or receipts for 81 payments to the value of £52,924.
On top of that, the Commission found that the Conservatives failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three by-elections in 2014 for work on their campaigns.
Sir John Holmes,chair of the Electoral Commission 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."
The Electoral Commission report came as it emerged 12 police forces have passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against Conservative MPs over spending in the 2015 general election.
The information could cover as many as 20 Tory MPs, with the CPS expected to make a decision on whether or not to pursue the cases within six weeks.
Allegations include money put towards the Conservative battlebus, which the Tories recorded as national expenditure rather than local spending which would have contributed towards constituency spending limits.
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