Political spending watchdog admits ‘errors’ in recording Tory donations

The political party spending watchdog has confirmed there were “errors” on its part in recording donations from the Conservative Party in the name of a company that had been dissolved.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds wrote to the Electoral Commission this week asking it to “urgently investigate” two donations made to the Conservatives that “do not appear to comply” with the law as the firms attributed were no longer active in the UK.

But following a review, the commission said it had discovered that an “administrative error” was at fault in one instance.

The Tories, the watchdog said, had however admitted inaccurate reporting in a second case raised by Labour.

According to the Electoral Commission website, the Conservative Party accepted a donation of £10,000 from Stridewell Estates on November 20 2019.

Ms Dodds said the Companies House website stated that Stridewell Estates was dissolved in November 2016 – more than three years before the donation.

A commission spokeswoman said: “Following questions last week on the permissibility of donations received by the Conservative Party, we have reviewed the data held and found that a number of donations were incorrectly identified on our database.

“We published information that the Conservative Party had accepted a £10,000 donation from Stridewell Estates in November 2019 (reference CO545454), and a donation from Landcap Development Eversley Ltd in December 2019 (reference CO545455).

“In both cases these were errors on the part of the commission.

“The party reported to us that it had accepted the donations from different companies, Kirklee Property Company 2 Limited and Landcap Limited respectively.

“In both cases the two companies shared an address, which is what prompted the administrative error.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds
Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds (Jacob King’/PA)

“We regret any confusion it has caused, and the impact it has had on transparency.”

In her letter this week, Ms Dodds also raised concerns about a Tory donation of £6,000 from Unionist Buildings on June 2 2017, which was accepted three days later despite the firm being dissolved in January that year.

A further donation of £4,000 from Unionist Buildings was registered by Conservative MP Wendy Morton on January 9 2020, almost three years after the company was officially dissolved, the senior Opposition party figure said.

The commission said it was awaiting further information on the Unionist Buildings donation after the Tories admitted there had been a mistake.

“The Conservative Party has advised us that donations from Unionist Buildings Limited were inaccurately reported to us,” added the watchdog spokeswoman.

“We remain in contact with them so that we can publish the correct information and provide transparency to voters.”

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 says company donors must be active in the UK, with party treasurers under obligation to check Companies House to see if the firm is in liquidation, dormant, about to be struck off, or if its accounts are overdue, before deciding whether to accept a donation within 30 days of receiving it.