Election watchdog Conservative Party donation error ‘raise more questions than it answers’ says Labour
The elections watchdog’s admission that it made an “admin error” in recording thousands of pounds of donations to the Conservative Party “raises more questions than it answers,” Labour’s chairwoman said.
Anneliese Dodds wrote to the Electoral Commission this week asking it to “urgently investigate” three donations made to the Conservatives that “do not appear to comply” with the law as the firms were no longer active in the UK.
One disputed donation of £10,000 from real estate company Stridewell Estates in 20 November 2019 was made weeks before the last general election, even though the company had shut down in 2016.
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But the watchdog has now said this funding was “administrative error,” adding the party had in fact reported a donation from a different firm.
In a second instance, the watchdog said the Tories had admitted inaccurate reporting of a donation from Landcap Development Eversley Ltd in December 2019, a real estate firm that shut down in 2017.
The law states company donors must be active in the UK, with party treasurers under obligation to check Companies House to see if the firm is in liquidation, dormant, about to be struck off, or if its accounts are overdue, before deciding whether to accept a donation within 30 days of receiving it.
An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: “Following questions last week on the permissibility of donations received by the Conservative Party, we have reviewed the data held and found that a number of donations were incorrectly identified on our database.
“We published information that the Conservative Party had accepted a £10,000 donation from Stridewell Estates in November 2019 (reference CO545454), and a donation from Landcap Development Eversley Ltd in December 2019 (reference CO545455).
“In both cases these were errors on the part of the commission.
“The party reported to us that it had accepted the donations from different companies, Kirklee Property Company 2 Limited and Landcap Limited respectively.
“In both cases the two companies shared an address, which is what prompted the administrative error.
“We regret any confusion it has caused, and the impact it has had on transparency.”
In her letter this week, Ms Dodds also raised concerns about a third donation of £6,000 from Unionist Buildings on June 2 2017, which was accepted three days later despite the firm being dissolved in January that year.
A further donation of £4,000 from Unionist Buildings was registered by Conservative MP Wendy Morton on January 9 2020, almost three years after the company was officially dissolved, the senior opposition figure said.
Ms Dodds said: “This confirmation that the Conservatives inaccurately recorded a donation amounting to thousands of pounds raises more questions than it answers. We urgently need to know where that money came from.”
The commission said it was awaiting further information on the Unionist Buildings donation after the Tories admitted there had been a mistake.
“The Conservative Party has advised us that donations from Unionist Buildings Limited were inaccurately reported to us,” added the watchdog spokeswoman.
“We remain in contact with them so that we can publish the correct information and provide transparency to voters.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We welcome this decision from the Electoral Commission and we will continue to work with them.”
It was revealed earlier this week that millionaire Conservative donor Peter Cruddas gave £500,000 to the Tories three days after he was made a peer – the biggest ever cash contribution in the Conservative Party’s history.
Boris Johnson overruled the Appointments Commission to put the donor in the Lords after he failed vetting, the Mirror reported.
Additional reporting by Press Association