Electoral Commission concerned about transparency of party funding…

Interesting figures out from the Electoral Commission today for the state of party finances in the time up to the end of 2006. The DUP moved from a modest deficit of -£52,000 to a modest profit of £55,000. As income was down, the shift seems to have been achieved by cutting of expenditure – whereas they spent £100,000 on the ’05 election, and there was none in 2006. Sinn Fein ended ’05 just in profit, but banked a massive fighting fund of £177,000 in ’06, drawn largely from a new Westminster grant (£187,000), as compensation for the fact that the party’s abstentionist MPs cannot draw on the Short money paid to other opposition parties to help them with their costs. Despite a massive drop in income (it lost much of what Sinn Fein was to eventually gain in Westminster funding, and then some), the UUP chipped about £50,000 of its longer term debt. That £221,000 tab for the 2005 election campaign looks in retrospect like a very costly overspend. It was still carrying a £177,000 debt into this election year.

The SDLP, after keeping it all extraordinarily tight during an election year let it all hang out in 2006, turning a £59,000 profit into a whopping £133,000 debt at the end of an election year. The main factor seems to be a massive drop in private donations. Generally, they seem to have put a squeeze on administration, but a new office in the US took over £64,000 out of the party pot.

Interestingly, none of Sinn Fein’s income and expenditure external to Northern Ireland appear in their accounts, since the ‘Six County’ party is run separately to Sinn Fein itself, so their accounts do not (insofar as any of them do) accurately reflect the financial fortunes of the whole party. That said, the Commission itself is clearly not happy about the current state of reporting across the UK. All the information is currently reported as suits the parties (and their auditors), and not according to binding requirements from the Electoral Commission.

As Peter Wardle, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission noted at the launch:

“The accounts should be a key source of information for anyone wishing to find out more about how a political party is funded, and what it spends its money on. Without complete and open accounts, you cannot have full transparency about party finances.

“The rules on transparency are vital to public confidence and integrity in the democratic process. That’s why we are now taking a tougher approach to ensuring parties follow the rules, including fining parties who don’t submit their accounts on time and looking at how we can get parties to improve the ways in which they present their accounts.”

Expect some serious lobbying on this issue…

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  • Elvis Parker

    UUP remains up to its ears in debt – methinks Cunningplan House will have to go on the market

  • Mick Fealty

    I should also point out that this may just be the starting point. The Commission is currently conducting compliance checks on the candidate and party expenditure returns from the Assembly election.

  • Aquifer

    Both the big westminster parties are broke, so we will get more party funding after the accounting is tightened up. Keep paying them all, it keeps them off the streets.

  • Crataegus

    A read through some of the smaller parties makes interesting reading, electioneering on a shoe string with £1 donations! Mind you some of it is almost illiterate gibberish.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Hey,

    Mick is trying to make bad Bulgarian into slur, why expect anything but crap from this?

    Talk about going down the tubes.

    I think he is doing a trying to hint at a story he won’t be able to back up again.

    This time it’s a nudge, nudge, wink, wink on funding.

    Slugger’s has gone really tabloid, slur and crap merchant.

    Facts? No chance Fealty?

  • DK

    The Newsletter’s front page is doing this story as Sinn Fein has £1 million – more than 5 times the DUP.

  • Bob Wilson

    Aquifer
    ‘Both the big westminster parties are broke’

    Not any more.

    Smaller donations and local activism are the key to cleaning up politics.

    The Conservative Party is back in the black for the first time since 2001, the latest set of audited accounts reveal.

    Covering 2006, the accounts reflect a £4.2 million surplus on the year – compared with a deficit in 2005 – plus a significant reduction in the Party’s net liabilities, as well as donations amounting to £20 millions, which is way ahead of the £5 million donated to Labour during the same period.

    Commenting, Conservative Party Chairman Caroline Spelman said: “Under David Cameron, the Conservative Party is changing. We are widening our supporter base and raising more funds from a broader number of donors.”

    And responding to Sir Hayden Phillips’ progress statement on the Inter-Party Talks on funding, she said: “The widely-held public perception that the awards of favours, influence and possibly even honours have been traded for party loans and donations reinforces the need for reforms to clean up politics. Changes must restore public trust, encourage grassroots participation and promote local democracy.”

    Mrs Spelman added: “The key to any comprehensive agreement is an across-the-board cap on large donations, so that parties are not seen to be dependent on a tiny number of large donors.

    “But Labour must realise that this has to apply to the union barons, not just individuals and companies. There can be no increase in state funding for political parties without such a cap.”

    The accounts show that for the first time since 2001, the Party has a surplus (of £4,207,000); that the Party finished the year without an overdraft; that total donations for the year were £20 million; that total net liabilities have been reduced from £18 million to £9 million; that the Party has set aside contributions to cover its pension fund deficit; and that £2 million has been invested in software ahead of a possible general election.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Wow, with that kind of money the Tories might break the ever illusive 4000 votes mark.

  • Elvis Parker

    I hear CunningPlan House is up for sale. Is this true Michael?

  • Michael Shilliday

    I hear you think voting Conservative is a good idea in Northern Ireland. Everyone knows that’s not true.