Cumbria Police consider 'improper' election spending probe

Conservative battle bus Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Conservatives said the Battlebus tour was part of a national campaign

Cumbria Police are considering investigating alleged "improper electoral campaign spending".

They have "received no allegations", but are assessing applying for an investigation-extension.

The Conservatives blamed an "administrative error" for not declaring £38,000 of general election expenses for their Battlebus 2015 tour.

It follows a Channel 4 investigation into spending in a number of constituencies, including Carlisle.

The extension must be secured before a year elapses following the filing of the election expenses.

'Promote the party'

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said bus costs were not included in his expenses because activists on it had been campaigning in a national, not local, capacity.

"My election agent made a return of my election expenses as required by law," he said.

"The party's national bus tour was authorised and paid for by Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), was intended to promote the party's success in the general election and did not form part of my local election expenses."

A number of police forces are investigating whether some MPs' agents should have filed costs associated with battle bus visits to their constituencies in their local expenses.

The activists on the bus targeted marginal seats.

However, the Tories said they had been campaigning "across the country for the return of a Conservative government" and, as a result, associated costs were regarded as national not local expenditure.

A Cumbria Constabulary spokesperson said it was "considering whether to apply for an extension on time to investigate and continue to liaise closely with the National Police Chiefs Council and the Electoral Commission".

The Labour Party has responded to reports some of its candidates also did not include battle bus costs in local expenses, saying these were counted as national spend as it was on a national tour.

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