Momentum fined by Electoral Commission for multiple breaches of electoral law
Published: 6 Mar 2019
Momentum has been fined a total of £16,700 by the Electoral Commission, the political finance regulator, for multiple breaches of electoral law. The fines concern an inaccurate 2017 general election spending return and failures to report donations accepted as a ‘members association’ outside of an election period.
This includes the highest fine levied on a non-party campaigner for not submitting a complete and accurate spending return to the Electoral Commission. This is the first time that Momentum has been investigated. In order to meet their legal reporting obligations in future, they must ensure they have the right staff and processes in place.
Offences relating to the 2017 general election spending return
Momentum registered as a non-party campaigner ahead of the 2017 general election – as was required for any individual or organisation intending to spend more than the registration threshold for campaigning. It subsequently submitted a spending return to the Commission in September 2017. A number of issues were identified with the return and the Commission launched an investigation in November 2017.
We have now concluded that Momentum:
- failed to submit a spending return that was complete and accurate. It has been fined £12,150 for this offence
- omitted £22,958.46 of reportable donations from a post poll donation report. It has been fined £2,700 for this offence
- failed to provide the required declaration to accompany their post poll donations report. It has been fined £250 for this offence
- failed to provide all required invoices with their spending return. It has been fined £250 for this offence
Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said:
“Non-party campaigners are essential for a healthy democracy. But just as crucial is that after a poll, voters can see complete and accurate spending data. The fines that we have levied reflect Momentum’s repeated revisions to their spending return, poor record keeping and failure to follow advice given by the Commission prior to the election.”
Offences as a members association
Momentum was, and is, a members association as defined by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000. This requires it to report any donations above £7,500 to the Electoral Commission within 30 days of acceptance.
During the course of our investigation into Momentum’s general election spending return, the Commission has concluded that:
- Michael Chessum, the then responsible person for Momentum, failed to report a donation of £10,000 from the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) within 30 days of accepting it. The donation was received on 21 July 2016 but not reported to us until 19 January 2019. Momentum has been fined £900 for this offence
- Mohammed Afridi, the then responsible person for Momentum, failed to report a donation of £8,000 from the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) within 30 days of accepting it. The donation was received on 3 May 2017 but not reported to us until 17 July 2018. Momentum has been fined £450 for this offence
Commenting on Momentum’s legal obligations, Louise Edwards added:
“Non-party campaigners that seek to persuade people to vote a certain way rightly have legal obligations; it is incumbent on them to invest properly in having the right processes and staff to meet their obligations. Momentum is unlike most non-party campaigners in that political campaigning is its full-time work, so it is particularly disappointing that they have failed to meet the law’s requirements.”
The Commission’s report on its investigation into Momentum is available on our website.
Notes to editors
- The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
- enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
- regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
- using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency
The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
- An individual or organisation that is issued with a sanction by the Electoral Commission has 28 days to appeal that decision. Any such appeal is made to the County Court.
- Unpaid fines will increase by 50% if not paid within 56 days of being imposed. After a further 28 days we may take action to obtain payment through the courts using the debt recovery process.
- Breaches of the political finance rules are considered in line with the Commission’s Enforcement Policy.
- Penalties imposed by the Commission go into the Consolidated Fund. This is managed by HM Treasury and not the Electoral Commission.
- Any non-party campaigner that intended to spend £20,000 in England or £10,000 in any of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on regulated campaign activity during the 2017 UK Parliamentary General Election regulated period (9 June 2016 – 8 June 2017) was required to register with the Electoral Commission and follow the rules on campaigning as set out in legislation.