Tories face legal action for delayed accounts

A SUFFOLK Conservative association faces action by the Electoral Commission after it emerged the group had failed to supply its accounts since 2007.

By law, political parties and their local associations have to submit proper statements of accounts to the Electoral Commission if their income is above �25,000. Failure to do is an offence under the Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

But it has now emerged that the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket Constituency Conservative Association has not filed its accounts since 2007.

In the 2007 accounts, the association reported income of �186,914 and expenditure of �209,201. The matter is currently being looked at by the Electoral Commission – and the Conservative Party last night said it was encouraging the association to sort out the situation.

The revelation come just days after the EADT exclusively revealed how the same group was visited by bailiffs in March, who had been sent in by Mid Suffolk District Council to get about �2,000 in owed business rates.

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A spokeswoman for the commission said failure to submit statements of accounts could lead to fines of up to �1,000 per offence, if they were more than a year late.

“The public has got a right to see how parties and accounting units get their money from and how they spend it,” she said.

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She added inquiries would be made of the Bury association about why it had not submitted accounts.

She said: “Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association have not submitted statements of accounts to the Electoral Commission since 2007.

“If the income or expenditure of Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association has been over �25,000 for the end of a financial year, then they (like other accounting units) are obligated to report their statements of accounts to the Electoral Commission.”

Chris Turner, chairman of the association, which is based in Woolpit, has been unavailable for comment.

However, a spokesman for the Conservative Party said, while it was not responsible for the activities of its accounting units, it would be “encouraging” the Bury association to submit the relevant accounts.

“We are trying to move fast on sorting this out,” the spokesman said. “We are trying to encourage them to do it.”

John Cook, the secretary of Ipswich Labour Party, said: “My understanding is that any political party treasurer failing to submit annual accounts to the Electoral Commission may have committed an offence, and could face a fine.

“Having always submitted returns by the required date, I don’t have any experience of the commission’s enforcement regime, but I believe they have a duty to act.”

Charles Bradbury, spokesman for the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket Liberal Democrats, said: “I don’t want to score political points. It is up to them to sort out their lives.”

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