The Electoral Commission has declared it will not be investigating the Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather over her election expenses. But it does indicate there was some “incorrect wording” on her return that she had submitted.
The election expenses of Ms Teather, MP for Brent Central and Minister for Children, were featured in a joint investigation the Bureau and Channel 4 News, which looked at the campaigning details of five MPs, and which was broadcast on July 22nd.
The report by Antony Barnett said her election returns did not make clear where she had split her costs, and that some of Ms Teather’s sums didn’t appear to add up.
The Electoral Commission has today told Channel 4 News it had conducted an “initial assessment” of Sarah Teather’s election expenses but said it would not be taking the matter further.
“The Electoral Commission conducted an initial assessment to see whether there was sufficient reason to believe that potential breach of the RPA (Representation of the People Act) may have occurred.
“The assessment of the information available did not indicate the possibility of a failure to comply with the RPA.
“Ms Teather’s agent has provided, in our view, an explanation for the wording on the expenditure return submitted.
“The Commission does not intend to pursue this matter and considers it closed.”
In a letter from the Electoral Commission Investigator to Ms Teather’s agent, he also makes reference to an apparent mistake contained within her election, saying:
“In reaching this decision I took into account the explanation which you provided in relation to the incorrect wording on the expenditure return submitted in respect of Sarah Teather’s election expenses, including the spreadsheet provided in support of that explanation.”
One receipt shows a spend for postage of nearly £11,000. In Ms Teather’s return, it said a quarter of this was for her campaign, but the actual figures declared are inexplicably lower – removing £800 off her campaign spend.
Sarah Teather’s agent told Channel 4 News that the discrepancies were due to inaccurate wording in relation to how invoices were split.
He said they accepted the wording on the returns “could and should have been clearer” but insisted the financial totals were “fully accurate”.
“All election expenditure was within the guidelines of the Electoral Commission and I have provided the commission with the paper work in order to confirm this,” he told Channel 4 News.
“We very much welcome scrutiny around this complex area of election law,” he said.
The Electoral Commission is currently carrying out a review of the election spending by the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, as a result of programme’s investigation.