Serious allegations raised about Kelly Tolhurst’s campaign spending

Channel 4 news have raised serious allegations about the spending of the Conservatives on Kelly Tolhurst’s losing by-election campaign against UKIP’s Mark Reckless in November 2014.

The Rochester and Strood MP declared a total spend for the campaign of £96,793, which is just shy of the £100,000 limit. Channel 4 News have now identified additional undeclared spending amounting to £56,867, meaning her campaign would have spent more than £50,000 over the legal limit.

The largest apparently undeclared receipt obtained by Channel 4 News was in Rochester & Strood, at the four-star Bridgewood Manor hotel in Chatham, Kent.

The receipt includes 19 pages of accommodation costs along with food, drinks, tips, and conference room and equipment hire, totaling £50,228.15.

Five other receipts for the hotel add up to £963.01 – making a total £51,191.16 bill.

Of this, 446 nights’ stay and £38,112.83 fell within the regulated period of 24 October 2014 to 20 November 2014, and should have been declared.

On top of this, Channel 4 News also noted that despite operating two campaign offices during the election – one on Rochester High Street and one in the Dockside Outlet Centre – no receipts were declared for either location.

Channel 4 News has also found that two Conservative campaign centres in Rochester were not declared, including one in an expensive retail mall.

The centre, Unit 67/68 of the Dockside Outlet Centre, consisted of 3,100 square feet of space in the busy shopping mall on St Mary’s Island next to the River Medway.

A quote obtained by Channel 4 News shows the cost including rent, rates, service charge and marketing cost would have been approximately £67,052 per year.

For the 28 days of the regulated period, this would work out as £5,143.71, not including any additional expenses such as utilities and telephone costs.

There is no receipt for the unit in Ms Tolhurst’s spending return.

The campaign also used an office on the High Street, Rochester where rent, rates, and phone receipts for the campaigning period would amount to £1,387.91.

Again, no receipt was declared.

The Conservative Party maintain that all spending has been correctly recorded, while the Electoral Commission that they are aware of the allegations, but it is for the police to investigate such complaints.

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