Guernsey Press

Date set but deputies fail to agree election spending limit

The States has failed to agree a spending limit for candidates at next year’s general election.

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The declaration of the 2020 general election results at Beau Sejour. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33261716)

Deputies initially backed an amendment to maintain the £6,000 limit used at the last election in 2020, in place of a proposal from the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee to increase it in line with inflation to £7,500.

But they later approved another amendment which directed Sacc to report back to the Assembly by September after considering whether the spending limit should be lower still.

Tina Bury, laying the amendment for a limit of £6,000 in the absence of its original proposer, Deputy Peter Roffey, identified two key factors when setting the spending limit.

  • Listen: Simon De La Rue and Matt Fallaize round up the debate on the our Shorthand States podcast

‘First, it has to be high enough to allow candidates to be able effectively to get their message out,’ she said.

‘Second, it should be as low as possible while being consistent with the first requirement in order to try to level the playing field.

‘It would be really unfortunate if those candidates with deeper pockets were able to benefit from higher levels of promotional spending than others.’

Sacc president Carl Meerveld urged the Assembly to be cautious about setting a spending limit which would be too low to allow a candidate to send a manifesto to every household, and pay for a few adverts in the Guernsey Press or posters.

‘The original limit was designed around whether the Assembly should actively preclude candidates from pursuing the kind of campaign they wish to have,’ said Deputy Meerveld.

‘Those who wish to approach the electorate through more traditional means – postage and printed adverts – have to be able to afford to do so within the spending limit.’

Deputy Al Brouard believed it would be unacceptable to restrict a candidate’s postal communication with electors only to the States-sponsored booklet of manifestos.

But Sue Aldwell was ‘flabbergasted’ with Sacc’s original proposal.

‘I wondered what the electorate would think of a candidate who spent £7,500 trying to get elected,’ said Deputy Aldwell.

‘I, like several other candidates, spent only £500 or just over [in 2020]. I think even £6,000 is too high and sends out the wrong message.’

Numerous other deputies said they would have favoured a lower limit even than the £6,000 set out in Deputy Bury’s amendment.

This prompted Deputy Meerveld to propose a further amendment to consider a lower limit.

‘It is clear there are some more creative ideas which could be explored. The amendment captures what I feel is a mood in the Assembly to go lower than the £6,000 limit,’ said Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, seconding the move.

Registered parties will be allowed to spend £12,000 at most on their election campaigns, although that figure could also be cut when Sacc reports back to the States.

Despite concerns from some, the States also approved a separate proposal which means that by-elections will be held only if at least three deputies’ seats become vacant at any one time.