Northern Ireland

Party spend for Assembly election down

Final results in 2017 NI Assembly
Image caption The DUP won the most seats in march's Assembly election, with 28 to Sinn Féin's 27

Parties campaigning in the March Assembly election spent less than half of what they spent on the previous election 10 months earlier.

Nine parties paid a total of £150,080, compared with £343,558 in May 2016, according to the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission is investigating why a third of parties submitted returns late or not at all.

Sinn Féin was the highest spender at £46,591, Alliance second at £32,456, while the UUP spent £26,443.

The DUP, which won most seats with 28, was the fourth highest spender on £21,929. The SDLP spent £14,971.

Parties that contested the election were required to submit a campaign spending return for the regulated period which ran from 16 January 2017 to polling day, on 2 March 2017.

The figures show the snap election appears to have strained party finances, says BBC News NI political correspondent Gareth Gordon.

The Conservative and Unionist Party, Cross-Community Labour Alternative, The Workers Party and UKIP all submitted "nil returns" - meaning the parties submitted the forms but said they had not spent any money on the campaign.

Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance, the Conservative and Unionist Party, Cross-Community Labour Alternative, The Workers Party and Traditional Unionist Voice all submitted their returns to the commission late.

The Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland failed to submit its return.

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, expressed disappointment at the failures and said they were being considered "in line with the Electoral Commission's enforcement policy".