Momentum spokesperson Laura Parker has hit back over “disproportionate” fines for “incredibly minor offences” after the grassroots movement was handed a £16,700 penalty for “multiple breaches of electoral law”.
The Electoral Commission cited the group for “repeated revisions to their spending return” and “poor record keeping” when issuing the fine, which is the highest issued to a non-party campaigner in history.
They were penalised £12,150 for failing to submit a spending return that was complete and accurate, £2,700 for omitting £22,958.46 of reportable donations from a post-poll donation report, £250 for failing to provide the required declaration to accompany their post-poll donations report and £250 for failing to provide all required invoices with their spending return.
But there has been a backlash over the severity of the fines.
Parker said “it is not surprising for a new organisation” to find some mistakes in its reporting and some clerical errors.
She added: “There were also various mitigating circumstances which should be taken into account. Momentum was a new, volunteer-led organisation and this was the first time we had to follow the regulations.
“We won’t make these mistakes again.”
Social media commentators have also cited the unrealistic demands of the Electoral Commission following the decision.
One noted that volunteers and staff are required to keep receipts for a whole year before the election – but given the 2017 vote was a snap election many would have been unaware it was going to take place.
They also pointed out that one example of accounting irregularities highlighted in the Electoral Commission’s investigation was a pizza which was ordered and expensed, but there was no account for what percentage of the pizza was eaten by staff members and what percentage by volunteers.