UK Politics

Labour fined over 'Ed Stone' general election costs

Ed Miliband unveils what became known as the 'Ed Stone' in the run-up to last year's general election Image copyright PA
Image caption The carving was seen as symptomatic of the failings of Labour's campaign

Labour has been fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare all of its general election expenses - including the stone tablet unveiled during the campaign.

The 8ft "Ed Stone", carved with ex-leader Ed Miliband's key pledges, was among £123,748 of payments missing from Labour's 2015 election return.

A further 33 receipts, worth £34,392, were missing, the commission said.

The £20,000 is the highest fine it has imposed since it was formed in 2001.

The commission's investigation was prompted by calls from journalists asking why Labour's 2015 general election return, published in January, did not include the stone carving, which was widely mocked after being unveiled.

Its probe widened as it emerged that in addition to two payments totalling £7,614 relating to the tablet, further expenditure had not been included in the return, while receipts were missing for other items.

The commission also considered a complaint that costs of bussing activists around the country had been wrongly declared in the national return, rather than attributed to specific seats, where a lower spending limit applies.

It concluded there were "not reasonable grounds to suspect any offence" and did not launch a further investigation.

But its investigation into campaign transport unearthed a further 49 payments that were missing from the general election return.

The commission said Labour had co-operated throughout the inquiry although it had failed to provide some information within a "reasonable timeframe".

Labour 'regrets errors'

It concluded that Labour's treasurer Iain McNicol, who is also its general secretary, had committed two offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act in relation to the missing payments and the missing invoices.

Bob Posner, the commission's director of party and election finance, said: "The Labour Party is a well-established, experienced party.

"Rules on reporting campaign spending have been in place for over 15 years and it is vital that the larger parties comply with these rules and report their finances accurately if voters are to have confidence in the system."

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "The commission's investigation found that internal procedural errors led to a relatively small number of items of expenditure not being declared properly.

"The party regrets these administrative errors.

"However, these amounted to just over 1% of our total spending of over £12m million during this election.

"We accept the findings of the report and have already tightened our internal recording procedures to address the commission's concerns."

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