May 26, 2016
Burnham's former MP Tessa Munt hits back over election cash claims

Burnham-On-Sea's former MP Tessa Munt has this week strongly denied accusations that she broke election rules by incorrectly declaring campaign costs during last year's General Election.

National media reports claim the Lib Dem may have breached local spending rules, potentially putting her over the spending limit.

It follows very similar accusations against Burnham's Conservative MP James Heappey in relation to his party's 2015 battle bus tour in the constituency, as reported here.

It's been reported that expenses for the battle buses were not properly declared, and in some cases should have been included in local campaign budgets. Failing to declare expenses is an offence under the Representation of the People Act and is punishable by a fine and/or prison sentence.

Avon and Somerset Police spokesman Wayne Baker told last night: "Avon and Somerset Constabulary have received a number of allegations in relation to improper spending in the 2015 General Election. We will be applying for an extension to the time allowed to investigate and continue to liaise closely with the Electoral Commission."

But Tessa Munt told "This is a totally misreported story, and a desperate measure from the Conservatives, who are clearly under enormous pressure."

"No political party allocates its ‘Leader’s Tour Bus’ to local expenses. The Leader’s Tour Bus is a coach that transports the Party Leader, staff and journalists around the country during the election. This is done by every party, and all parties - including the Conservatives - allocate the costs of this – the Leader’s Tour Bus - to national expenses."

"If this was indeed a local expense, then the costs of the visit by David and Samantha Cameron to Wells on Bank Holiday Monday 4th May 2015 should appear on James Heappey’s election expenses. They do not. The rules are clear. The Leader’s Tour Bus is a national expense."

" covered both Nick Clegg’s visit to Wells constituency, and David Cameron’s here and here. Tessa sat on the Leader’s Tour Bus once, for a media interview, and to give Nick and his team some wonderful local Somerset cider and Cheddar cheese."

"The Leader’s Tour is entirely different from the complaints which have been levelled at the Conservatives, who paid for other buses specifically to bring activists in to campaign for particular candidates, delivering leaflets and knocking on doors in individual seats. This happened here in the Wells constituency."

"Transport and all expenses for those activists must be declared as local expenses, and clearly that has not happened. This is the subject of the Avon & Somerset Police investigation, not the buses in which Cameron, Miliband or Nick Clegg travelled the country."

"The Tories really should spend more time on their own accounts, rather than muck-raking."

MP James Heappey told "I was surprised to see reports in the media about the Liberal Democrat election expenses in the Wells Constituency."

"The reports allege that the Lib Dem battle bus visited Brent Knoll in my constituency where Tessa Munt posed for photos with Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg before boarding the bus along with a journalist from the Mid-Somerset News – which publishes the Wells Journal, Shepton Mallet Journal, Cheddar Valley Gazette and Central Somerset Gazette. Nick Clegg was then interviewed whilst the bus travelled along the M5 to Taunton about Tessa Munt’s local candidature by a local journalist for a story that would be published exclusively within the constituency and a few villages immediately over the boundary."

"I welcome Avon & Somerset Police’s enquiry into my expenses and have written to the Chief Constable to offer my full support and co-operation."

"With that letter was a copy of the original email that I received from Conservative Campaign Headquarters notifying us of the date and time of the battle bus visit along with clear instructions that it would be accounted for under the national party election expenses."

"Following today’s reporting, my office has been contacted by constituents who say they have complained to Avon & Somerset Police about the Liberal Democrat election expenses for the Wells Constituency. I know the police will want to fully investigate those allegations too."


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