Campaign spending controls main topic at IWV meeting
QUESTIONS over how campaign groups expenditure would be monitored in the run-up to the island-wide voting referendum were a key theme at a public meeting at The Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.
Organised by the States Assembly and Constitution Committee, the meeting was aimed at informing people who might be considering forming a campaign group for one of the five options for reform that electors will have to pick from when they go to the polls on 10 October.
Once appointed by Sacc, each of the five campaign groups will be entitled to a grant of up to £5,000 from the States and total expenses during the referendum period, which runs from 1 September to 9 October, of up to £10,000 in money or the equivalent.
Lead referendum officer Advocate Elizabeth Dene told the meeting the intention was to stop people with ‘deep pockets’ influencing the process.
‘There probably won’t be enough to get a double decker bus with your campaign logo on the side, red, green or otherwise,’ she said.
One man asked what would happen if people spent money before the referendum period.
SACC president Peter Roffey said they would still have to declare it but, like an election, candidates did not normally campaign before they had put their names forward.
He said individuals could spend up to £100 campaigning but as soon they bonded with another group, that body had a total expenditure of £100 unless it was one of the official campaign groups.
Deputy Rhian Tooley asked if someone could spend £100 on each of the five options.
Deputy Roffey questioned why they would want to do that in the first place.
Roy Bisson said the grant would not be enough to cover sending a letter to every island household. Advocate Dene said un-addressed letters could be sent to all island homes for £3,500.
One person said that not every home had people on the electoral roll.
Somebody wanted to know what would happen if someone began lobbying from off-island or even a foreign country.
Deputy Roffey said he was concerned that there might not be enough people to lobby anyway so to have someone doing it from outside would be interesting.
Former deputy Rhoderick Matthews said Deputy Roffey was right to be concerned because the turnout at the meeting suggested there was not a great deal of interest. About 30 people attended, of whom at least half were States members.
BBC Guernsey journalist Simon Fairclough asked why States members were being allowed to head campaign groups. Deputy Roffey asked why they should not be.
He said that being a States member did not mean they would get the Campaign Group Assessment Panel’s recommendation.
Speaking after the meeting, Deputy Roffey said if States members had been excluded there would not have been many people at the meeting, but the turnout had not surprised him.
‘This was very much the start of the attempt to engage the public,’ he said.
‘The meeting was pitched at people looking to form campaign groups and we can only hope that interest grows.
‘If the meeting had been about the merits of each option, I think we would have seen more people here.’
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