Thursday, December 20, 2007

All to easy to get impermissable with donations 

Laughing at the Tory problems with ‘donations’ in Whitney is OK ( and the cause of the Tory upset was, it seems, accepting money from a long-time overseas resident who hasn’t been on the UK Electoral Register for yonks. So fair cop). But we do need the proverbial eternal vigilance in our own backyard. The rules can be diabolically complex.

Take for example the events in the local association of ‘an MP’. A personal and professional friend of the MP made a substantial donation paid monthly by standing order and this continued happily for some years, all properly accounted for. However the donor moved out of the member’s constituency to live and work in London. Quite properly the donor de-registered from the original Electoral Register, but because of difficulties finding permanent housing in London did not at once re-register in London.

At the end of the accounting quarter in which the de-registration occurred, the standing order payment became impermissible. And even if a new registration had been validly made elsewhere later in the following Quarter, no donation could be accepted for those three months.

Fortunately the amount of the donation was large enough to be noticed by officers of the Region, who contacted the local party of the MP concerned telling them to refuse the donation until the electoral registration situation was regularised. Even more fortunately the regional Officers insisted this be done despite indignant shrieks (‘bureaucracy gone mad’, etc) from the local party Officers. Otherwise we (yes it was one of our MPs) would be up in lurid neon lights right this moment for accepting ‘impermissible’ money. But the problem affects ALL donations by standing order however small…

Other difficulties of this nature arise when local associations boundaries change ( thus changing the boundaries of the accounting units under PPRA) which on occasion has led to perfectly valid donors suddenly being un-validated through getting left behind administratively. Still more problems come when local party boundaries do not coincide with local authority boundaries, so monies from Councillors have to be juggled between several pots. It is rather easy to make ad-hoc sharing arrangements that in fact create what should be a new, separate, accounting unit that needs its own PPRA report – even through every penny has in fact been in good faith declared otherwise.

This is the time of year when local party treasurers have to finalise the returns that form the basis of PPRA reports. Good luck to them all, and lets hope they can all sail through the reefs and shoals of the law down the legal navigable channel.

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