Tory police candidates must find ?5,000 deposits while Labour fund theirs
PUBLISHED August 25, 2012
The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners is the Tories' flagship law and order policy but central office is not providing any funding for its contenders' campaigns.
In some parts of the country candidates paying the £5,000 deposit - 10 times the amount required in parliamentary elections - out of their own pockets while in other areas local associations are covering the costs.
Some Conservatives say they need more help in fighting the elections as they need to cover entire counties to deliver leaflets and hold meetings, and that finding money is a distraction from canvassing support. Unlike at the last general election, major donors such as Lord Ashcroft are not funding campaigns in marginal areas.
Even the party's own activists, let alone the general public, know little about the polls that will take place in 41 police force areas on November 15th to elect a US-style sheriff with the power to set budgets and fire chief constables.
Tories argue the funding arrangements leave them little better off than independents, who have been complaining that they are at a disadvantage because of the money required to fight the election and the fact that the Home Office is refusing to fund mailouts.
By contrast Labour, which opposes the introduction of PCCs, is paying its candidates' deposits and so allowing them to get on with campaigning.
One Tory candidate said: "The independent candidates would like to think that fundraising for the party candidates is a piece of cake but it isn't.
"It would be much easier if the money was just there, but without the money you can't fund the campaign.
"It's one more thing to remove the focus from the actual campaign and the election."
Another said the fundraising challenges were "very significant", particularly as constituency associations are often struggling to get by and their members may not want to campaign for a candidate they do not know, unlike in council or parliamentary elections.
"There is a real downside because I'd rather be out talking to voters rather than campaigning," said one PCC candidate.
It was also pointed out that the set-up would rule out any hopefuls who did not have substantial savings.
But several Conservatives also insisted that raising money was an essential part of campaigning, and planned to find at least £20,000 before election day. The deposits will be returned to those who get at least 5 per cent of the vote, in any case.
Julie Iles, the Conservative PCC candidate in Surrey, said: "I read the eligibility criteria before putting myself forward, I know what's expected of me and I have the courage of my convictions.
"Having to secure 5 per cent of the vote to get the £5,000 deposit back will hopefully rule out the sort of person that should not be standing for PCC. Independent candidates should be no different."
Matthew Grove, who is up against Lord Prescott in Humberside, said anybody who wanted to control a multi-million pound budget in a police force area covering almost 1million people should be able to raise funds and campaign.
Sam Chapman, who runs the PCC website Top of the Cops, said: "As it looks like no-one has been putting money aside within the major parties this is one election where the advantage they have over independents may not be as great as usual."
Jon Collins, deputy director of the Police Foundation think-tank, said: "The fact that candidates will even have to raise their own deposits puts paid to the idea that party candidates will all be very well funded.
"Campaigns run on a shoestring are less likely to capture the public's imagination, compounding current concerns about turnout."
Labour confirmed it is covering all of its candidates' deposits centrally.
A Conservative party spokesman said: "As in Parliamentary, European and Local elections, local associations and candidates are responsible for raising funds to fight the campaign, including the deposit, and PCC elections are no different. Obviously these are deposits and we expect the money to be returned in full after the elections.
"The Conservative Party, unlike the Labour Party, does not have the luxury of being reliant on union cash dished out from the central party to fund its campaigns."