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Watchdog investigates election spending of Jeremy Corbyn-backing momentum

File photo dated 24/9/2017 of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally at Momentum's World Transformed fringe festival during the Labour Party annual conference in Brighton. An investigation has been launched by the UK's democracy watchdog into whether the Corbyn-backing Momentum movement breached spending rules at this year's general election. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 7, 2017. The Electoral Commission said its probe would look into whether Momentum's spending breached the limits for non-party campaigners in national elections. See PA story POLITICS Momentum. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched by the UK's democracy watchdog into whether the Jeremy Corbyn-backing Momentum movement breached spending rules at this year's general election.

The Electoral Commission said its probe would look into whether Momentum's spending breached the limits for non-party campaigners in national elections.

And it will also consider whether returns submitted by the group, founded in 2015 as a grassroots movement to support Mr Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party, accurately recorded donations and payments relating to the 2017 campaign.

The Commission's director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, Bob Posner, said: "Momentum are a high-profile active campaigning body. Questions over their compliance with the campaign finance rules at June's general election risks causing harm to voters' confidence in elections.

"There is significant public interest in us investigating Momentum to establish the facts in this matter and whether there have been any offences.

"Once complete, the Commission will decide whether any breaches have occurred and, if so, what further action may be appropriate, in line with its enforcement policy."

Electoral law imposes strict spending limits on non-party campaigners seeking to influence people to vote for one particular political party or any of its candidates.

Spending is limited to £31,980 in England, £3,540 in Scotland, £2,400 in Wales and £1,080 in Northern Ireland for the regulated period, which in this year's case stretched for 12 months before the June 8 ballot.

Founded by Jon Lansman as a means of bolstering Mr Corbyn's leadership at a time when he was seen as being under threat from centrist MPs and activists, Momentum has become increasingly influential within the Labour Party.

It boasts a network of more than 23,000 members, 150 local groups and 200,000 supporters, many of whom took part in campaigning around the 2017 election.

Electoral Commission records show that Momentum reported total spending of £38,742.54 across all four parts of the United Kingdom during the general election campaign, £257.46 below the £39,000 limit.

The Commission stated that its investigation will look at whether or not Momentum:

:: Spent in excess of the spending limits;

:: Submitted a return that did not include accurate donation information;

:: Submitted a return that was not a complete statement of payments made in respect of controlled expenditure; or

:: Submitted a return that did not include all invoices for payments of more than £200.

The watchdog added: "It is possible that during the course of the investigation, the Commission will identify potential contraventions and/or offences under PPERA (Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000) other than those set out above.

A Momentum spokesman said: "Much of the Electoral Commission investigation refers to a series of administrative errors that can be easily rectified.

"Momentum put a lot of effort and resources into detailed budgeting and financial procedures during the election to ensure full compliance.

"Our election campaign was delivered on a low budget because it tapped into the energy and enthusiasm of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country.

"We have a good working relationship with the Electoral Commission, and will fully comply with the investigation going forward."

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