Why did Cllr Chris Jones not declare financial support from the Wirral Labour Group, Unite the Union and the Seacombe branch of the Labour Party towards her 2019 election expenses in her Register of Interests?
Cllr Chris (or Christine) Jones pictured above was re-elected as a councillor for Seacombe ward earlier this year.
After election those who are elected as a councillor to Wirral Council are required by law because of section 30 of the Localism Act 2011 within 28 days of their election to notify Wirral Council of any disclosable pecuniary interests.
These include a category called “Sponsorship” which is defined in the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 (with the same description used in Wirral Council’s Code of Conduct for councillors) as “Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the relevant authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by M in carrying out duties as a member, or towards the election expenses of M.
This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.”
A councillor not declaring a disclosable pecuniary interest is deemed to be committing a criminal offence if the councillor knows the information is false and misleading or is reckless as to whether the information is true or misleading. This can be punished (if the councillor is found guilty) by a level 5 fine.
Below is a screenshot of Wirral Council’s website taken today (10th September 2019) which shows that Cllr Chris Jones declared “None” in the Sponsorship category in her Register of Interests (just a reminder that the Sponsorship category includes “any payment or provision of any other financial benefit … towards election expenses):
As part of an election expense return for her election Cllr Jones signed the following declaration which stated that to “the best of her knowledge and belief it is a complete and accurate return as required by law”.
This page of the election expense return shows £808.45 of expenditure, yet the donations page states that there were no donations accepted by the campaign, no donations rejected by the campaign and the candidate provided £NIL towards her own election expenses.
However invoices submitted with the election expense return show details of a 4 page wraparound around the Wirral Globe costing £5,400 (paid for by the Wirral Labour Group – the cost was split between the 22 campaigns which was £245.45 of advertising towards the Seacombe campaign), £228 of leaflets printed by the Seacombe Labour branch and a £40 donation towards the costs of a Wirral organiser by Unite the Union.
Here are links to the pages that support the statements in the previous paragraph.
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