Monthly update - concluded investigations

Summary

Details of the investigations concluded in the last month have been published today by the Electoral Commission. This is an important part of delivering transparency in political finance in the UK.

Wake Up and Vote and DDB UK Limited

Wake Up and Vote (WUAV) was a permitted participant at the EU referendum in 2016 and was required to deliver a spending return to the Commission. WUAV reported campaign spending totalling £66,382.77, including £24,000 spent on a campaign called the ‘5 seconds campaign’. DDB UK Limited, also a permitted participant, ran the ‘5 seconds campaign’ with WUAV and reported spending £51,812.90 on it, and reported a donation of £24,000 from WUAV. 

We found that the ‘5 seconds campaign’ was a joint campaign run by WUAV and DDB UK Limited. Spending on the campaign was ‘joint’ or ‘common plan’ spending. Both campaigners should therefore have reported the total amount, £75,812.90.

However, while WUAV reported its own spending of £24,000, it did not declare this as joint spending and did not declare the £51,812.90 spent by DDB UK Limited. As a result, the WUAV spending return was incomplete. It has been fined £1,800 for these omissions.

DDB UK Limited also failed to declare the joint spending by it and by WUAV. As, in March 2018, we fined DDB UK Limited £1,000 for other inaccuracies in its spending return, we cannot, by law, impose a further penalty for this same offence.

We considered whether another campaigner, We Are Europe, failed to report joint spending on the ‘5 seconds campaign’. We concluded that it was not part of this common plan.

WUAV have until 16 October 2019 to pay their fine.
 

Quote on Wake Up and Vote

Commenting on the fines imposed on Wake Up and Vote, Louise Edwards, the Commission’s Director of Regulation said:

“Permitted participants at the 2016 EU referendum were required to provide accurate reports of their campaign spending. This was so the public could see where they got the money for their campaign, and how the money they used for campaigning was spent.

“Both Wake Up and Vote and DDB UK Limited had an important legal duty to accurately declare joint spending in their referendum spending returns. Both failed to do so, meaning that voters, looking at the reported spending, had no way of knowing that WUAV and DDB UK Limited had worked together on a campaign, or of how much either campaigner spent in total.”

Scottish Unionist Association Trust

The Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT) has received three separate fines totalling £1,800. One £1,300 fine was for failing to notify the Commission of political contributions made as an unincorporated association. Two £250 fines were for failing to report donations as a members association.

SUAT is an exempt trust, an unincorporated association and a members association. It is also, the Commission has concluded, a permissible donor to political parties. Donations it has made to the Conservative and Unionist Party were properly reported by that party.

However, as an unincorporated association, SUAT is required to notify the Commission when it makes political contributions of more than £25,000 in any calendar year within 30 days of the value of contributions reaching that point.

SUAT made political contributions exceeding £25,000 to the Conservative and Unionist Party in 2010, 2015, 2016, and 2017. It failed to provide the required notifications within the required timescale. SUAT also failed to provide further notifications of any gifts it had itself received by the due dates. All of the notifications were delivered during the Commission’s investigation.

As a members association, SUAT was required to report donations it received that are over £7,500 to the Commission within 30 days.

SUAT accepted two donations which it failed to report on time: £50,000 on 6 February 2014 and £157,350.07 on 13 March 2017. Both reports were delivered during the investigation.

SUAT has accepted the Commission’s findings and paid the fines for these offences.

Quote on Scottish Unionist Association Trust

Commenting on the fines imposed on the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation, said:

“The reporting requirements for members associations and unincorporated associations are clear, so it is always disappointing when regulated organisations fail to provide accurate reports on time.

“Properly, SUAT’s donations to the Conservative and Unionist Party were reported by that party and published so the public could see them. But SUAT consistently failed to provide proper notification of its activities as an unincorporated association and as a members association. As a result, the public did not have the transparency it was entitled to have of SUAT’s finances. The Commission will continue to enforce these requirements to ensure that voters have the information they need.”

Investigations where offences were found and sanctions imposed

Name and type of regulated entityWhat was investigatedDecision takenOutcome
Wake Up and Vote (permitted participant)Failure to submit a return containing a statement of all payments made in respect of referendum expenses£1,800 variable monetary penaltyDue for payment by 16 October 2019
Scottish Unionist Association Trust (unincorporated association / members association)Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date. Failure to deliver donation reports on time as a members association£1,300, £250 and £250 variable monetary penalties totalling £1,800Paid 16 August 2019
Ealing Council Labour Group (unincorporated association)Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date£300 variable monetary penaltyPaid 16 August

 

Investigations where offences were found and no sanctions imposed

Name and type of regulated entityWhat was investigatedDecision takenOutcome
Aspire (registered political party)Late delivery of quarterly donations reportNo sanctionClosed without further action
Legacy (registered political party)Late delivery of quarterly donations and transactions reportsNo sanctionClosed without further action
Southampton Independents (registered political party)Late delivery of quarterly donations and transactions reportsNo sanctionClosed without further action
DDB UK LimitedFailure to submit a return containing a statement of all payments made in respect of referendum expensesNo sanctionClosed without further action

Ends

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk
 

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

  1. 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.

  1. This release forms part of the Commission’s regular monthly investigations update, an important part of its commitment to deliver transparency in political finance in the UK. Information of this nature is published routinely on the third Tuesday of each month. Details of sanctions from previous months can be found on our website.
  2. Penalties imposed by the Commission go into the Consolidated Fund. This is managed by HM Treasury and not the Electoral Commission.