Wrexham.com Examines Local General Election Candidate Spend
The General Election is long done and dusted, but the financial submissions and paperwork is now available for public inspection, so we took a look.
Both losing Conservative candidates in Wrexham and Clwyd South declared spending over £10,000 each, while the winning Labour candidates came in at under £5,000 each.
The detail given by some candidates was down to a per-item listing on receipts, for example Ian Lucas’ campaign buying A-Z maps from Sainsburys Wrexham, or Rob Walsh spending £2.60 on rubber bands.
Not all receipts were present in the bundles provided to Wrexham.com by Wrexham Council, with some candidates apparently not providing receipts or invoices, with others only supplying some information. Other candidates were notable in their thick bundles, detailing elements minutely for example Mr Lucas’ website costing 32 pence per day.
The campaign spending is split in to the ‘short’ and ‘long’ campaigns, generally speaking the long campaign is up to the day the UK Parliament is dissolved, and the short campaign is the period between then and polling day itself.
Below are some details recorded from our two hours at the Guildhall split per candidates in Wrexham along with notes from Clwyd South….
Rob Walsh stood for the Liberal Democrats, and has recently been elected a councillor for Llay. Mr Walsh’s declaration was quite short with just £380.15 spent on his short campaign and £1,186.18 spent on his long campaign. As is common with most candidates the bulk (£998) of the bill was effectively paid for via a donation by the local Liberal Democrat party. Noteably his return mentioned a £2.60 spend on ‘rubber bands’.
Brian Edwards stood as an Independent candidate, and reflecting his quirky nature he was the only one to make his submissions via A3 rather than A4. With what appeared to be a self funded campaign it was local publishers of the Leader newspaper and printers NWN Media who benefited with the bulk of the receipts for printing and photocopying services. Mr Edwards did spend £6 on a t-shirt customised for him by Sure To Please on Chester Street. No donations were recorded.
Niall Plevin-Kelly stood for UKIP spent £491 in the long campaign, mainly with Vistaprint and Huws Gray for ‘poles for advertising’. One further purchase of a ‘heavy duty’ stapler was also mentioned, perhaps looking forward to the campaign ahead. Items for a stall were also purchased, including a generator (£318) and fuel for said generator (£10). eBay was also used to purchase a ‘megaphone hailer’ for £34.80. On the short campaign the candidate spent £533.65, with £41 spent online at the UKIP website store on badges and a tie. Again opting for the serious office equipment, a ‘heavy duty’ staple gun was purchased for £16.65 . The main spend was £436 on election leaflets, via UKIP head office. No donations were recorded.
Conservative candidate Andrew Atkinson had the thickest return documents, stating a long campaign spend of £1141 with £685 of personal expenses noted as motoring ‘etc’. £2100 of donations were accepted, with £150 from the local Conservative association and the rest from individuals with addresses redacted. The biggest spend in the long campaign was £395 on Facebook adverts however as it was a personal invoice from Mr Atkinson to the local Association the detail of what was promoted is unavailable.
The short campaign saw a spend of £10,834.31 with £535 of personal expenses. £6000 of donations were accepted in this period, with £4000 from the local Conservative Association and £2000 from what appeared to be decipherable in the scrawl as Oakwood Property Management. Oakwood has a registered office in Oxfordshire, however the addresses of the directors closely matched the submitted form, with an address in Chipping Norton.
£9114 was spent on what is called ‘unsolicited material to electors’, the usual election leaflets that come through the door, with printing of 12,200 ‘pledge packs’ totalling £4,066 being spent with PPC in Bristol. Several other smaller printing invoices were paid to companies in and around Wrexham, along with what appears to be centralised Conservative printing.
CLARIFICATION: Mr Atkinson has written to us this morning following the publication of this article, in reference to the below sentence which reflects what is listed on the submitted expenses sheets : “Thanks for publishing the article about election expenses, I think it’s great for transparency. I’m hoping that you will correct something for me. The article lists a Nigel Lewis. Through no fault of yours this is incorrect. Nigel has had no association with my expenses of any kind. The wrong name was submitted in error and a letter to the Electoral Commission is being sent to address this and add the name Cliff, who is the gentleman who kindly loaned us the trailer.”
£200 was spent with the Town Centre Forum chairman Nigel Lewis, for ‘loan of advert trailer’ and the receipt/invoice was stated as ‘not available’ .
Facebook was a regular expense again, with further detail available for the short campaign, with endorsements being promoted eg. “I think Andrew will make an excellent MP…” being boosted. Mr Atkinson also spent £1.75 promoting his Wrexham.com Q&A that was clicked on 23 times along with other URLs.
A spending at Wickes gives an insight to the work of candidates and their helpers, with a Powa Strike Club Hammer (£9.99) and an anti-vibration claw hammer purchased along with a selection of cable ties, nails and wire staples – plus a 500ml bottle of water. £75 was also spent to ‘supply refreshments to helpers on polling day’.
David Munnerley was the candidate for the Green Party, and following his green credentials the return was appropriately resized to take the least amount of paper of all submitted. £517.75 was the total spend, with the bulk being via Paperclip printing in Corwen (£351) with £150 noted as spent with Wrexham Council for a stall.
Mr Munnerley recorded donations of £517.75 from the Green Party Fighting Fund, which matched the total spend. No invoices or receipts were in the bundle provided by Wrexham Council.
Carrie Harper who stood for Plaid Cymru recorded a spend of £1096 in the long campaign, entirely spent with NWN Media (publishers of the Leader newspaper). For the short campaign spending was recorded of £1691.82 , with £919 again with NWN Media , along with £325 at Wickes and £447 with Humphrey Signs. No invoices or receipts were in the bundle provided by Wrexham Council.
Ian Lucas was the eventual winner of the election, standing for Labour. Mr Lucas spent £2,214.59 in the long campaign on services provided by the local constituency office, with printing noted at £756.45. Office costs were detailed for this period, including water gas and electric. £75 was listed as ‘use of the CLP laptop’. One donation of £2,214.59 was listed, again matching the total spend, which came from the Wrexham Labour Party.
The short campaign noted total spending of £4,946.76 with £1,524 was detailed as spent on election addresses, however as with all items the name of the supplier was “Wrexham Constituency Labour Party, 39 Rhosddu Road, Wrexham” there was little insight to if there is an aladdins cave of wonders in the address providing a range of services from gazebos (£10 for use) and loudspeakers (£10) to printing, or if it was more centralised buying. Some invoices indicated a centralised purchasing system via the Labour Party allowing what appeared to be quite cheap leaflet, signage and similar items to be purchased by candidates.
The costs were covered by a single donation, again covering the total spent, from the Wrexham Labour Party, of £4,946.76
Another glimpse into the life of campaigners came via a photocopied receipt from Sainsburys Wrexham for Welsh Skimmed Milk (£1) and four A-Z maps (£4.95 each) alongside a Screwfix invoice for 200 black cable ties (£5.94). Further similar invoices detailed a 10p vegetable purchase, along with six ring binders being bought. Mr Lucas joined with the UKIP candidate by opting for ‘heavy duty’ stationary supplies, purchasing a ‘heavy duty tape dispenser’ for £5.22 via Amazon.
(Pic below: From our live video stream from the count just prior to Mr Lucas being declared winner!)
Looking at others in Clwyd South, the picture of other candidates mirrored Wrexham. The Liberal Candidate Bruce Roberts detailed his spending on rosettes, wooden stakes and more cable ties with one interesting note that their printing was carried out in Llandudno and designed in London. Similarly with UKIP’s Mandy Jones and the Green Party’s Duncan Rees the spend levels and detail mirrored the Wrexham candidates, with again a spend of £397.94 for the Green’s with a matching donation from the Green Party to cover those costs.
Rhodri Mabon Ap Gwynfor who stood for Plaid Cymru spent £472.15 in the short campaign with printing services via a company in Dundee (£156.35), and NWN Media’s printing services in Mold (£316.80). The long campaign saw a spend of £3,780 again on printing, wood for signs and posters. Spend was split between companies in Cardiff (Westdale Press), Denbigh, Corwen and Wrexham. £60 hire of the Stiwt and a £78.20 hire of a translator was also noted. Donations of £0 were stated. No invoices or receipts were in the bundle provided by Wrexham Council.
Susan Elan Jones was elected for Labour in the election, and recorded an election spend of £4,426.46. Spending was base around wooden campaign signs via local companies such as WT Evans in Cefn Mawr, and poster printing from Labour Party, plus around 50,000 leaflets.
Donations of £837.50 were accepted in cash from individuals from the Wrexham area. The highest was a £400 donation from Philip Gosling, a £87.50 from Ken Skates. £1,904.78 was also noted as ‘money provided by the candidate to meet election spending costs’ an optional declaration not taken up some other candidates.
David James Nicholls who stood for the Conservatives recorded a spend of £447 in the long campaign on printing services, as with other candidates the sum covered by donations of £447 by the local party, and noted £106 as personal expenses incurred.
The long campaign saw the second thickest set of documents after his Wrexham counterpart, with £11,499.47 of electoral spending noted. £376 of personal expenses were recorded, along with £11,499.47 of donations entirely from the local Clwyd South Conservative Association.
Spending on Facebook adverts and promotions totalled £559.96. The invoices detail the types of promotion, where it appears the candidate used ‘boost post’ to get their Facebook status seen by more. For example, a post about a visit by Stephen Crabb to Llangollen was paid to reach 3,725 extra people resulting in 10 clicks. Similar promoted posts included a link to a poll by The Leader showing a 46% win for Conservatives in Clwyd South, and a Daily Post profile piece. There were no links to Wrexham.com promoted.
Several ink cartridges also being ordered. On the invoices for the ink the billing address was an address in London, and the delivery address was on Lincoln’s Inn, again in London.
Two of the larger payment of £2623 for printing and £2800 for leaflet distribution, nor others involving translation services, were not detailed up with invoices in the bundle provided to us by Wrexham Council.
(Pic below: What it was all over… the winner of the Wrexham election being declared.)
Re-live the election…
Finally around 24 hours after the polls closed we created this media coverage round up, noting how the result was given out in the local printed press and other outlets!
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