Can you make this election arithmetic add up?
Yesterday’s blog post headlined Frank Field’s election campaign spent £254.40 on balloon gas but what else was money spent on? contained a donations page (which is below).
As you can see above, Wirral Council has removed the names and addresses of the individual donors who donated £100 and £250 to Frank Field’s election campaign.
However the legislation, s.89(1A) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 only allows them to remove addresses of individual donors to candidate’s election campaigns, not the names of individual donors too!
I have e-mailed Wirral Council requesting the names of the donors who donated £100 and £250, which shouldn’t have been blacked out when I inspected the return.
There’s also something declared in the election expenses for Frank Field’s campaign that from a technical legal perspective shouldn’t have been included as election expenses. To stand as a General Election candidate you require a £500 deposit which is refunded if you get 5% of the vote.
Obviously Frank Field got more than 5% and the deposit would have been refunded. However section 95ZA subsection 2 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 states
Part 2 (General Exclusions) of Schedule 4A of the Representation of the People Act 1983 states:
Rules 9 of Schedule 1 relates to the £500 deposit for parliamentary elections and is below for reference.
9(1) A person shall not be validly nominated unless the sum of £500 is deposited by him or on his behalf with the returning officer at the place and during the time for delivery of nomination papers.
(2) The deposit may be made either—
(a) by the deposit of any legal tender, or
(b) by means of a banker’s draft, or
(c) with the returning officer’s consent, in any other manner (including by means of a debit or credit card or the electronic transfer of funds) .
but the returning officer may refuse to accept a deposit sought to be made by means of a banker’s draft if he does not know that the drawer carries on business as a banker in the United Kingdom.
(3) Where the deposit is made on behalf of the candidate, the person making the deposit shall at the time he makes it give his name and address to the returning officer (unless they have previously been given to him under section 67 of this Act or rule 6(4) above).
However moving on from trivial matters, to the more serious issue of how you split expenses incurred jointly between two campaigns.
Below are the declarations of Phil Davies and his election agent Jean Stapleton about Phil Davies’ election expenses return in Birkenhead and Tranmere stating that to the “best of my knowledge and belief it is a complete and accurate return as required by law”.
There are maximum expenditure limits for local election candidates, which are set at £740 + 6 pence per an elector. As there were 9,525 electors in Birkenhead and Tranmere this means the maximum expenditure limit comes to £740 + (£0.06 times 9,525) = £1,311.50 . You can see this amount used for Phil Davies’ election expenses return below.
Spending over these limits is classed as an illegal practice, see section 76 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 and if the candidate and/or agent “knew or ought reasonably to have known that the expenses would be incurred in excess of that maximum amount” then a court can find them guilty of an illegal practice and they could be barred from standing in the by-election that would result.
The total spent by Phil Davies’ campaign as declared on the election expenses return was £1,266.17 as you can see from this page below.
Electoral Commission guidance (see the bottom of page 81 here states on the issue of splitting expenses:
5.19 In all cases you should make an honest assessment, based on the facts, of the proportion of expenditure that can fairly be attributed to your candidate spending.
5.20 This is important, because when you sign the declaration for your election expenses return, you are confirming that the return is complete and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.
As part of the campaigns of Frank Field and Phil Davies a joint leaflet was put out and the total costs of £1,511 were split between the two campaigns.
As you can see below £377.75 of the joint leaflet was attributed to Frank Field’s campaign.
The invoice submitted as part of Phil Davies’ election expenses return show that the remaining (£1500 – £377.75) = £1133.55 was split five ways equally between the campaigns for Bidston & James, Birkenhead & Tranmere, Claughton, Prenton and Rock Ferry.
The portion of this leaflet attributed to Phil Davies’ campaign was £226.65.
However different amounts of leaflets were printed for each area (as you can see on the invoice). 7,263 for Bidston & St. James, 8,055 for Birkenhead and Tranmere, 6,787 for Claughton, 6,974 for Rock Ferry and 6,090 for Prenton.
This total comes to 35,169 leaflets. The proportion for Birkenhead and Tranmere was 8,055. 8,055 divided by 35,169 = 22.9%. 22.9% of £1133.55 = £259.58 (£32.93 higher than the number used when it is instead just split five ways instead).
This wasn’t the only joint leaflet between Frank Field’s and Phil Davies’ campaign though. There was also the “Vote Twice” leaflet. As you can see below, £243 of this was attributed to Frank Field’s campaign.
Here’s the invoice for the vote twice leaflet submitted with Phil Davies’ election expenses return.
This is where I can’t even understand how the split used has been arrived at.
£972 – the proportion paid for by Frank Field’s campaign (£243) = £729
The invoice states:
VOTE TWICE leaflets
QTY 3000 CLAUGHTON/PRENTON
QTY 4000 BIDSTON/ROCK FERRY/BIRKENHEAD
Handwritten on the invoice is “BIRKENHEAD & TRANMERE SHARE = £139.80 ONLY DELIVERED 3600 leaflets = £71.90”
If £729 was split five ways it would come out as £145.80 per a ward.
If £729 is split by numbers of leaflets delivered in Birkenhead and Tranmere it would be £729 * (3600/7000) = £374.91.
If the amount for the proportion of leaflets for Bidston/Rock Ferry/Birkenhead (4000) is calculated as 4000/7000 * £729 = £416.57. Then as it’s for three wards it’s divided by three, £416.57/3 = £138.86 (which is near enough to one of the figures used of £139.80).
However this figure (£139.80 would be for 1333 leaflets (4000 divided by 3)). For some bizarre reason 3600/7000 has been used to arrive at a proportion of £138.86 as £71.90. Doing it this way appears to be incorrect (to me anyway as logically if 3600 leaflets were delivered instead of 1333 it should lead to an increased not decreased amount).
If 3600 leaflets were delivered in Birkenhead and Tranmere then the figure should have been (£972 – Frank Field’s share (£243)) * (3600/7000) = £374.91 (£303.10 higher then declared).
The net effect of using of both these calculations under the “honest assessment principle” of sharing costs between these joint leaflets is to increase the expenditure on this campaign by £32.93 + £303.10 = £336.03.
This would make the total expenditure £336.03 + £1,266.17 = £1602.20 (massively above the maximum expenditure limit of £1,311.50).
So who’s got their figures wrong, myself or Phil Davies and his agent?
If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.