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UK's ruling Conservatives fined over election expenses

Press Trust of India  |  London 

The ruling Conservative party was today fined a record 70,000 pounds by an independent watchdog over "numerous failures" in reporting expenses, marking the biggest fine imposed on a British political party.

The Electoral Commission announced its decision after a long-drawn investigation into the party's reported spending on three by-elections in 2014 and the 2015 General Election, led and won by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

The fine was imposed after the commission concluded that the Tory party had failed to record or incorrectly recorded payments totalling more than 250,000 pounds.

This is the biggest fine imposed on a political party by the watchdog.

"Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the party's spending was reported correctly.

The rules established by for political parties and their finances are there to ensure transparency and accountability," said John Holmes, chair of the Electoral Commission.

"Where the rules are not followed, it undermines voters' confidence in our democratic processes, which is why political parties need to take their responsibilities under the legislation seriously," he said.

The fine is imposed on the party as a whole, while 12 police forces across the are considering whether to file criminal charges on individuals over alleged expenses fraud by the Conservatives in the 2015
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The Commission has also concluded that Simon Day, the

registered treasurer of the Conservative party until April 2016, committed three contraventions under section 41 and two offences under section 82(4)(b) of Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

They have referred a possible offence - of whether Day "knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration" - to Scotland Yard.

The allegations that prompted the investigation were that the Tories bussed in activists to take part in critical campaigns in marginal seats which helped Cameron win a majority at the 2015 General

The Conservative party has blamed an administrative error and said it had complied with the investigations and will pay the fine fully.

A party spokesperson said: "CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) accepted in March 2016 that it had made an administrative error by not declaring a small amount constituting 0.6 per cent of our national spending in the 2015 campaign.

"Political parties of all colours have made reporting mistakes from time to time. This is the first time the Conservative Party has been fined for a reporting error.

We regret that and will continue to keep our internal processes under review to ensure this does not happen again.

"It also called for a "review" of how the Electoral Commission's processes and requirements could be clarified or improved.

First Published: Thu, March 16 2017. 16:57 IST