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Conservatives deny overspending in Rochester and Strood by-election

By Paul Francis

Claims that the Conservatives spent more than they were permitted to in the Rochester and Strood by-election have been rejected by the party.

The allegations centre on hotel expenses that it is said were not properly reported in returns to the Electoral Commission after the high-profile battle in November 2014.

The claims were made by Channel 4 News, which alleged the Conservatives may have spent over the £100,000 limit if a number of hotel expenses during the by-election campaign had been declared.

Kelly Tolhurst won back Rochester and Strood for the Tories at the general election
Kelly Tolhurst won back Rochester and Strood for the Tories at the general election

Channel 4 said that close to £57,000 was spent on hotels in Rochester during the campaign period which were not incorporated in the party’s returns.

Had the party done so, it would have taken them £53,659.83 over the £100,000 spending limit during what is called the regulated period.

In the case of Rochester and Strood, the party filed returns for £96,793.08.

Rochester and Strood Conservative party chairman Andrew Mackness said: “The election expenses were in line with what is permitted in the limits and they were properly declared to the Electoral Commission.”

The by-election in November 2014 was bitterly contested by the parties and the Prime Minister David Cameron made five visits to campaign in support of candidate Kelly Tolhurst.

Mark Reckless won the by-election for Ukip
Mark Reckless won the by-election for Ukip

Hundreds of party activists were sent down to help during the campaign as the party fought to stop Ukip claiming victory.

In a statement, Ukip party chairman Steve Crowther said: “If electoral law has been broken, clearly prosecutions should follow and the results of those elections should be reviewed.”

The Conservative party has also rejected other claims concerning hotel bills during the campaign in South Thanet at the general election, where Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, was standing.

These centred on £14,000 spent by the party at a Ramsgate hotel which the party attributed to national campaign expenses - meaning the expenditure did not have to be declared as part of the constituency expenses.

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