Returning Officers Communications, Candidate Briefings, Warnings & Police Complaints - 2015 General Election
Dear Thanet District Council,
The following information is sought in relation to communications, briefings, warnings and complaints issued by council Returning Officer & associated staff to prospective MP candidates, political parties and police in the lead up to, and conduct of, and subsequent enquiries into, the 2015 General Election.
1) Were all GE2015 MP candidates issued with written guidelines including election procedures and spending rules, in line with Electoral Commission guidance? (see below for details)
2) Please provide copies of GE2015 briefing sheets and written guidance provided by the Returning Officer (RO) or Acting Returning Officer (ARO) to prospective MPs.
3) What procedures and processes did the RO or ARO have in place to identify and manage issues threatening the legitimacy of the electoral process relating to MPs expenses? How were they implemented?
4) What complaints were lodged with the RO and ARO regarding electoral integrity and spending issues for GE2015?
5) What documented action did the RO or ARO take to address these complaints?
6) What formal or informal warnings were issued to candidates or political parties?
7) What complaints were referred to local police?
Joel M Benjamin
Subject:Returning Officer Communications - 2015 Election
Dear Mr Benjamin
Thank you for your correspondence of 07/06/2016 where you requested
Returning Officer communications relating to the 2015 General Election.
Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and will be answered within 20 working days.
If you have any queries about this request, please contact me quoting the
reference number above.
Customer Contact Officer
Ref No: 89841/3458401
Subject: Returning Officer Communications - 2015 Election
Dear Mr Benjamin
Thank you for your communication received on 07/06/2016 where you
requested the following information:
1. Were all GE2015 MP candidates issued with written guidelines including
election procedures and spending rules, in line with Electoral Commission
guidance? (see below for details)
2. Please provide copies of GE2015 briefing sheets and written guidance
provided by the Returning Officer (RO) or Acting Returning Officer (ARO)
to prospective MPs.
Please see attached documents:
a. Election Agent Information
b. Briefing for Parliamentary Elections
3. What procedures and processes did the RO or ARO have in place to
identify and manage issues threatening the legitimacy of the electoral
process relating to MPs expenses? How were they implemented?
There is no requirement for this, other than providing copies of the blank
forms for submitting election expenses. It is not the duty of the RO and
ARO to scrutinise the returns in any way.
4. What complaints were lodged with the RO and ARO regarding electoral
integrity and spending issues for GE2015?
There were 3 emails received from electors regarding concerns over
5. What documented action did the RO or ARO take to address these
Replies were issued to each elector advising what they should do to submit
their concerns, i.e. contact Kent police directly. The content of the
email reply was:
‘The Electoral Commission is aware of the alleged breach of the candidate
spending limit at the 2015 UK Parliamentary general election in South
Thanet that you refer to.
In the run-up to UK Parliamentary general elections, there are separate
rules governing spending and donations for candidates and political
parties. The allegation in question relates to whether the Conservative
Party reported as national campaign spending costs that may properly have
been candidate spending in South Thanet.
The Commission is responsible for regulating the rules on funding and
spending that apply to political parties. They have begun an assessment
regarding items of expenditure included in the Conservative Party’s 2015
UK Parliamentary General Election national campaign spending return. Their
assessment is focusing on whether the return contained payments that were
not party campaign expenditure. Once they have concluded their assessment,
they will either decide that no further action is necessary or begin an
investigation. If appropriate, they may also refer the matter to the
Although they monitor compliance with the rules for candidates and agents
in order to assess whether they are effective and being followed, the
Commission does do not have specific investigative and sanctioning powers
in relation to any offences relating to these rules. This means that they
cannot investigate the allegations regarding the accuracy of the
individual candidate’s spending return in South Thanet. As the offences
relating to the candidate rules at elections are criminal, responsibility
for investigating allegations of breaches rests with the police.
This is also the same situation for the Returning Officer here at Thanet,
and as such you would need to contact the police.’
6. What formal or informal warnings were issued to candidates or political
7. What complaints were referred to local police?
See answer given to Q5.
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor,
Thanet District Council, PO Box 9, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1XZ, or
email to [email address]
Please quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
Electoral Services Manager
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