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Friday, December 12, 2014

UKIP claim spending on constituency offices is lawful

The Western Mail finally catches up with my blogpost of 2nd October, where I queried whether UKIP was using public money to establish a campaigning base to win parliamentary seats.

The question arose because of a comment by their Welsh MEP, Nathan Gill that he had been waiting for UKIP to establish their target seats in Wales before opening an office, stating: "We've now come to a decision that Alyn and Deesside is one of our best prospects and we have therefore opened an office at 50 Chester Road, Shotton on Monday. We will soon be opening an office in South Wales too, again in a target seat."

As the paper says, European Union rules relating to publicly funded offices for MEPs state: “The premises must be used solely for the parliamentary activities of the Member.” Another states that “appropriations” [MEPs’ allowances] “may not be used to finance any form of European, national, regional or local electoral campaign”.

Mr Gill claims that it is all above board: “It’s true that my offices at Shotton and the one opening on Saturday in Merthyr are in the same buildings as Ukip campaign offices, but there are clear demarcation lines between the parts of the buildings used by me and the parts used by Ukip. I am renting part of both buildings from the local Ukip parties, and this is entirely in line with European Parliament rules.

“I have visited the Shotton office half a dozen times since it opened. I also use it for surgeries."

This is fair enough and I have no reason to doubt Mr. Gill's word. What I would like to know though is on what basis the rent is being paid? Has an independent survey established the correct proportion of rent Mr. Gill should pay his party for the use of the office for example? And what rent is UKIP itself paying for the use of the rest of the premises?
No doubt it will all come out in time.

P.S. My interest in this does not come about because UKIP worry me in the sense Mr. Gill claims but purely in the interests of properly scrutinising how public money is spent. I am subject to that scrutiny. Mr. Gill should not be an exception.
It is difficult to know whether the current way UKIP is conducting itself is due to ignorance or disregard for the law. I have recently received in the Bridgend constituency glossy leaflet for their Parliamentary candidate for Bridgend. No use of the word prospective does she know that she has triggered her election expenses for the general election? Similarly she illustrates her election decked car which she claims she will drive around the constituency until the election. Does she know that this will need to be properly costed in any election expenses? Proceeding at this rate of send she will certainly bust any election spend limit.
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