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Parties spend £31 million at UK general election

Published: 01 Dec 2010

The Electoral Commission – the independent party funding watchdog – has published details of campaign spending by political parties and organisations at the 2010 UK general election. 

In total, 43 political parties reported spending £31,498,745 across the United Kingdom on campaigning during the regulated period. Non-party campaigners reported spending over £2.2 million. This compares to £42,325,729 spent by parties and £1.7 million spent by non-party campaigners during the regulated period for the 2005 UK general election.

Peter Wardle, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, said:

“We first published details of campaign spending following the 2001 UK general election. Voters have become used to election spending being transparent, with details of the amounts spent by each party available on our website.

“Parties also have to provide the Commission with details of all items of expenditure, including invoices and receipts for every item of more than £200. For the first time at a UK general election, we are making this extra level of information available online for voters to see.”

The ‘regulated period’ for the UK general election ran from 7 May 2009 to polling day on 6 May 2010. For parties that stood candidates at the 2009 European Parliamentary election, as well as the 2010 UK general election, there was a combined regulated period that ran from 5 February 2009 to 6 May 2010.

During this time, political parties had to record all party campaign spending on the general election. After the election, parties had to submit a return detailing their campaign spending to the Electoral Commission.

Political parties that spent £250,000 or less during the regulated period had to submit their spending return by 5 August 2010, and the Commission published this information in September 2010.

Parties that spent more than £250,000 during the combined regulated period had to submit audited returns by 5 November 2010, and the Commission has published this information today.

Political parties were subject to spending limits during the regulated period. The spending limit for the UK general election for each party was £30,000 multiplied by the number of seats they contested. Each part of the United Kingdom has its own limit based on the number of seats contested in that part. A party that contested all 650 UK Parliamentary seats would have a spending limit of £19.5 million.

There are separate registers of political parties for Great Britain and for Northern Ireland. Details of spending at the UK general election by political parties are as follows:

Spend by parties on the Great Britain register of political parties 

Political party

Expenditure (£)

2010

2005*

British National Party

29,460

112,068

Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"

29,217

2,254

Conservative Party

16,682,874

17,852,240

Green Party

325,425

160,224

Labour Party

8,009,483

17,939,617

Liberal Democrats

4,787,595

4,324,574

Scottish National Party

315,776

193,987

UK Independence Party

732,780

648,397

Parties spending under £250,000**

242,182

 -

Total spending by all parties

31,154,793

41,729,403

*This does not represent an exhaustive list of spending by all parties in 2005, but is supplied for comparison. A total for parties spending under £250,000 in 2005 is not supplied, as parties in this category in 2005 are in the over £250,000 category for 2010.
**The Commission published spending by parties reporting spending of £250,000 or less in September 2010. Details are available on the Electoral Commission website.

Spend by parties on Northern Ireland register of political parties

Political Party

Expenditure (£)

2010

2005

Alliance - Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 23,944 21,124
Conservative And Unionist Party 109,941 8,434
Democratic Unionist Party - D.U.P. 59,086 107,133
Green Party 6,304 Did not contest
People Before Profit Allliance 198 Did not contest
SDLP (Social Democratic & Labour Party) 52,339 154,088
Sinn Fein 64,078 44,212
Traditional Unionist Voice - TUV 11,368 Did not contest
Ulster Unionist Party 16,692 251,119
Total spending by all parties 343,952 596,326
In their returns to the Commission, parties must allocate all spending against one of eight specified categories. The tables below set out campaign spending by category in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland:

Spend by category in Great Britain

Category

Expenditure by category (£)

2010

2005

Party political broadcasts 1,449,884 990,293
Advertising 9,095,766 15,597,104
Unsolicited materials (e.g. leaflets) 12,398,337 8,990,680
Manifesto and policy documents 634,698 645,898
Market research and canvassing 1,854,276 3,089,938
Press conferences/media 821,054 983,256
Transport 1,679,760 3,821,787
Rallies and other events 1,762,545 4,171,371
Overheads and general administration 1,456,794 3,430,348
Spend by category in Northern Ireland

Category

Expenditure by category (£)

2010

2005

Party political broadcasts 78,592 102,879
Advertising 134,935 245,577
Unsolicited materials (e.g. leaflets) 71,049 119,221
Manifesto and policy documents 14,629 62,457
Market research and canvassing 0 450
Press conferences/media 27,087 2,694
Transport 2,985 19,281
Rallies and other events 8,827 12,070
Overheads and general administration 5,847 31,698
In addition to spending by political parties, 23 third parties (individuals or organisations that campaign for or against particular parties, candidates or policies) reported spending £2,216,027 across the UK during the regulated period for the general election.

Spending by third parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland 

Third party

Expenditure (£)

2010

2005

Searchlight Information Services Ltd 319,231 42,761
The Democratic Reform Company 299,989 Did not campaign
Unison - The Public Service Union - 682,115
Vote For A Change Ltd 555,554 Did noit campaign
Third parties spending under £250,000 1,041,253 -
Total spending by third parties 2,216,027 1,705,607
*This does not represent an exhaustive list of spending by all parties in 2005, but is supplied for comparison. A total for parties spending under £250,000 in 2005 is not supplied, as parties in this category in 2005 are in the over £250,000 category for 2010.
**The Commission published spending by third parties reporting spending of £250,000 or less in September 2010. Details are available on the Electoral Commission website.
As part of their spending return, third parties are also required to report donations of over £7,500 from the same source during the regulated period.  This information has been updated on the Register of donations to third parties on our website.

Two third parties – ‘UNISON - The Public Service Union’ and ‘Searchlight Information Services Ltd’ – failed to submit their spending return on time. The Commission has issued Searchlight Information Services with a fine. The Commission will issue UNISION – The Public Service Union with a fine when they submit their return.

There are separate reporting requirements for individuals who stood as candidates at the UK Parliamentary election. By law, candidates must report spending they incur to the Returning Officer for the constituency they contested. Details of individual candidate spending are available from Returning Officers. The Commission will publish details of candidate spending returns from across the UK later this month. The amounts spent by parties do not include expenditure by candidates.

Further details, including a breakdown of spending by category, spending in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as copies of individual invoices and receipts, are available on the Electoral Commission website: www.electoralcommission.org.uk/party-finance/party-finance-analysis/uk-parliamentary-general-election-campaign-expenditure

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For more information please contact


Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704
Out of office hours 07789 920414 

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000) introduced controls on campaign expenditure by political parties and controlled expenditure by third parties contesting certain elections, including the European Parliamentary and UK General Elections. Parties with expenditure up to and including £250,000 must deliver a return to the Commission within three months of the election. Parties with a combined expenditure over £250,000 must deliver an audited return to the Commission within six months of the election.
  3. In addition to the 43 political parties that reported campaign expenditure to the Commission, 89 political parties reported nil campaign spending to the Commission.
  4. The Act limits the amount that political and third parties may spend during the 365 days prior to the UK Parliamentary general election. Where parties also contested the European Parliamentary election in 2009, the Act sets limits for a combined period: from 5 February 2009 until polling day (6 May 2010).
  5. Figures in this press release are rounded to the nearest £. Rounding errors may occur.
  6. For a party that contested a general election there was an expenditure limit of £30,000 per seat and a minimum limit of £810,000 for England, £120,000 in Scotland and £60,000 in Wales. Parties should use whichever is the maximum as the overall allowed limit. A party that contests all 650 seats in a general election would have an expenditure limit of £19.5m. The overall party limits are reduced where a candidate stands in the name of more than one party.
  7. Third parties had a spending limit of £1,184,259 across the UK for the 365 day regulated period. This figure is made up of four spending limits: England - £953.250; Scotland - £126,000; Wales - £71,259; Northern Ireland - £33,750.
  8. Expenditure by political parties must be recorded against one of the following categories:
  • Party political broadcasts
  • Advertising
  • Unsolicited materials
  • Manifesto and policy documents
  • Market research and canvassing
  • Press conferences/media
  • Transport
  • Rallies and other events
  • Overheads and general administration

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