Watchdog probing Tory association

A GOVERNMENT watchdog last night confirmed it is reviewing the accounts procedures of a Suffolk Conservative association to see whether there has been a breach of the law. Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA), all 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 law.

Last month the EADT revealed that the Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket Constituency Conservative Association had not filed its accounts since 2007.

At that stage the Electoral Commission said it would be carrying out preliminary inquiries into the issue.

It has now decided to carry out a full case review.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: “We are currently reviewing whether the Bury St Edmunds Conservative accounting unit was required to submit statement of accounts for the periods 2008 and 2009 and whether, by failure to submit accounts, they were in breach of provisions of PPERA.

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“This is now a case under review to establish whether there has been a possible breach of Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.”

In the 2007 accounts, the association reported income of �186,914 and expenditure of �209,201.

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Failure to submit statements of accounts can lead to fines of up to �1,000 per offence, if they were more than a year late.

News of the review comes just weeks after the EADT revealed how the same organisation was visited by bailiffs in March who had been appointed by Mid Suffolk District Council to get about �2,000 in owed business rates.

Chris Turner, chairman of the association, which is based in Woolpit, declined to comment.

Instead, a spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “There were some issues with the running of the association which are now being resolved under new leadership.”

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