How do you get the expense receipts for election candidates? It’s really very simple – so why isn’t everyone doing it?
You first need to contact the Elections Office for your local council – in Birmingham their email is elections [at] birmingham.gov.uk (you should be able to get their contact details by ringing your council’s general contact number)
- Tell them that you will be arriving later that day and which expense returns you will be looking at. You can look at them all for free in their office, but if you want to take away a copy you’ll have to pay 20p per sheet, so it’s probably best to look at them first before choosing which pages you want copies of.
- Ask for directions to the office as it may be tucked away – this video shows where Birmingham’s Election Office is located, on up a side alley off Great Charles Street.
- Expenses are divided into the ‘short campaign’ (the period of around four weeks after an election is announced) and a ‘long campaign’ (the period before the election is announced). I found at least one candidate put all the receipts for both into one bundle, so it’s worth getting both out.
- Check for missing sheets.
That’s it. There generally isn’t that much to look at in the short campaign receipts so you shouldn’t be there too long.
Curiously, the Birmingham office told me that no one ever comes to look at the receipts (apart from one election candidate), so someone should.
It’s a good idea to bring a laptop if you have one and copy key details across to a spreadsheet (company names, etc.).?
Background: A Channel 4 investigation has “raised questions over the election expenses of Zac Goldsmith” – in particular only claiming partial expenses on the grounds that ‘not all material was used’.
The responses of Goldsmith and the Conservative Party suggest “candidates were justified in only accounting for items used as material can become out of date during a campaign … the examples raised could be seen in the returns of other candidates.”
We want to see if this is true. Are other candidates not claiming for the expense of ‘unused’ materials? Or is Goldsmith an exception?
We’ve started one investigation in Birmingham but would really welcome sister investigations in other towns and cities.