Sunday 11 December 2016

Watchdog steps on in pursuit of Bez over election campaign finance

Published 15/03/2016 | 16:16

Bez was renowned for his 'freaky dancing' during his Happy Mondays days
Bez was renowned for his 'freaky dancing' during his Happy Mondays days

Happy Mondays dancer Bez is being pursued for thousands of pounds in fines by a watchdog for failing to register spending by his political party.

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The star - real name Mark Berry - attracted 703 votes in Salford as the highest-profile of three candidates that stood in the 2015 general election under his We Are The Reality Party.

But the lack of paperwork filed by the 2005 Celebrity Big Brother winner is landing him in mounting trouble with the Electoral Commission - which has now added an £1,800 penalty to one of £400 imposed last year which remains unpaid.

A spokesman for the watchdog said it was "in discussions" with the one time favourite of the Madchester scene, who as the party's registered treasurer is responsible for dealing with the issues.

The latest fine is for "failing to deliver a campaign expenditure report" for the election "as well as failing to deliver quarterly donations and loans reports".

Bez has 28 days to appeal that fine which can be increased by 50% if not paid within 56 days - with the option of court action to recover the money after another 28 days.

The Commission also heavily criticised the lack of co-operation of another party - the NO2EU eurosceptic operation that was led by the late trade union boss Bob Crow into the 2014 European Parliament elections.

A £3,000 fine imposed on the treasurer of the now-deregistered outfit, Mary Bryce, for failing to deliver a spending report for that election and delivering donations and loans reports late, remains outstanding and has been increased to £3,750.

It will go up to £4,500 if unpaid at the end of the month.

Louise Edwards, head of regulatory compliance and casework at the Electoral Commission, said: "Transparency around party spending does not become less important because a party ceases to be registered.

"It remains the treasurer's legal responsibility to ensure all required reports have been delivered to the Commission. Despite our efforts, NO2EU's spending almost two years ago at the EPE still remains unknown as a result of this lack of co-operation."

Press Association

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