Party funding: talking transparency EPOP conference (September 2013) Steve Goodrich
Talking transparency • Background • Defining transparency • Securing transparency • Challenges
Political parties, third parties and referendum campaigns Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) based on Neill Committee recommendations: • Commission as independent regulator • Limits on spending • Controls on donations (and loans to parties since 2006) • Reporting financial activity to the Commission • Donations/loans • Spending • Statements of Accounts (parties only)
Candidates Origins in 19th century and now in RPA 1983 / relevant election Orders • Limits on candidate spending • Controls on donations (since 2000) • Candidates report financial activity to local Returning Officer • Limits on local third party campaign spending
What is transparency? “ Easy to see through, understand or recognize; obvious” Collins Dictionary Defining transparency in the world of party funding Ensuring the finances of political actors are open to public scrutiny We provide this transparency through data
Working definition of transparency • Accurate:the data reflects reality as closely as possible • Accessible:e.g. cost, location, time, conditions of access, formats etc. • Intelligible:requires consistency, structure and comparability • Meaningful:insightful and valuable for the user
Regulation Proportionate regulation Breaches • Criminal offence for non-compliance • New investigatory powers and civil sanctions since 2010 for PPERA offences • Currently no powers or sanctions for candidate offences
Making data available PEF Online has data on: • Political parties • Third parties • Referendum campaigners • Other regulated individuals/organisations Includes: donations, loans, campaign spending and statement of accounts Functions • Searchable • Export to csv/xls • Summarises headline figures • PDFs of invoices/receipts available Soon to be published via www.data.gov.uk ?
Getting the basics right… • Accurate:compliance and enforcement work • Accessible:PEF Online and csv/xlsfiles • Intelligible:coded, structured and standardised data BUT • Meaningful:is it insightful and valuable for the user?
What are the challenges to ensuring transparency? Challenges for: • Campaigners • The regulator (us) • Members of the public
Challenges faced by campaigners Three main challenges: • Volunteer-run parties and inexperienced agents • Electoral law is complex • Competing priorities e.g. contesting elections, formulating policy, educating voters etc. Poses challenges for accuracy of data Solution • Advice and guidance provided by Commission
Challenges faced by us as the regulator 1. Helping people to understand the rules 2. Meeting expectations and ensuring trust • Enforcement • Capacity 3. Making our data intelligible for users Solutions • Prioritising our work • Open and transparent decision-making • Engaging with data users
Challenges faced by members of the public Experts • Standardising our data • Understanding the legislation • Finding an audience Interested enthusiasts • Accessibility and meaning Possible solutions?
Contact details Steve Goodrich (Senior Policy Adviser) email@example.com