What do I need to know about Election spending?

You need to feel confident that you understand the rules about campaign spending before you submit your nomination. If you are found to have deliberately broken the rules, there are serious penalties in the law – you could face a hefty fine, and you could even lose your seat. So you need to know what’s expected of you.

Please bear in mind that Guernsey has its own laws which govern how elections are carried out. So if you’ve been involved in politics in another country before, please don’t assume that it’s the same here.

The best place to start is the official candidates’ guide on the Election website. Pages 12 to 18 explain the rules about Election spending.

Remember, every candidate will need to submit a statement of Election expenses at the end of the campaign period, whether you have been elected or not.

This means you need to keep track of the cost of everything you use as part of your campaign, and keep hold of receipts to prove it. It is much better to do this as you go along than to try and pull everything together at the end.

Part of the reason it’s important to keep track of expenses is because there is an upper limit on how much you can spend. For ordinary candidates, that limit is £6,000 (if you’ve got it!). The rules are more complex if you are a member of a party – again, please refer to the official guide to get it right.

You should remember that things have a value, even if you don’t pay for them! Our laws refer to this as “money’s worth”. You might not actually hand over cash for some of the things you use for your election campaign, but you need to account for them in your expenses as if you had paid for them.

If someone wants to help you out with election expenses, you need to check the rules on donations – some kinds of donation aren’t allowed, and you will need to refuse or return them. Other kinds need to be declared, so that your Election finances are transparent.

Finally, the States provides some assistance with election expenses. You are entitled to a two-page manifesto in the combined manifesto booklet (which will be delivered to all registered households); a three-minute video; and a dedicated candidate page on the Election website. You are also entitled to reclaim a grant of up to £500 towards your election expenses – but bear in mind that you can only do this at the end of the process. This assistance is available to all candidates, regardless of whether or not you are elected.

These are some key points you might want to think about when planning your Election spending, but they are only part of the story. I would stress, again, that you need to read the official guidance. If you think anything I have said here conflicts with the guidance, then – obviously – trust the guidance! (And please let me know, so I can make a correction. I don’t want to mislead anyone.)

If you have read the guidance (and the laws – especially the Reform Law and the Electoral Expenditure Ordinance) and you are still unsure about something, your first port of call should be the Elections team. If you can’t find the answer on the Elections website, then get in touch with them, and I am sure they will do their best to help.

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Can I afford it?

The basic rate of pay for Deputies was £36,009 a year at the start of this term. (Edited to add: I’m advised by the Treasury team that it will be £40,521 at the start of the new term. This is because the rate is normally increased by inflation from year to year – I’ve discussed this a bit further below.)

Some of the more ‘senior’ roles get higher salaries, but if you’re calculating whether or not you can afford it, you should probably work off the basic rate – there is no guarantee of being elected to any role, nor of staying in that role for the whole of the term. There are no bonuses (of course) and no benefits – there used to be a pension scheme for Deputies but that was closed down a couple of terms ago.

Your pay will normally be increased in line with inflation (RPIX) unless you choose to opt out at the start of the term. Remember, you have committed to this job for the next four years. It’s not like a normal job, where you can start job-hunting at any time if you are trying to find a higher wage or more flexible working hours, or whatever else you may need to support yourself and your family. The RPIX-linked increase is a way of making sure that the wage remains at a level which means that working age people, and people with families, are able to afford to do this work – so politics isn’t just for the rich and the retired.

We are classed as ‘self-employed’, which means we pay a higher rate of social insurance than you’ll be used to if you’re normally employed. The contribution rates are different depending on whether you’re under or over retirement age – but there’s a small uplift in your pay if you are under retirement age, which balances this out.

Your tax will be deducted at source, but your social insurance contributions won’t be. We pay on a quarterly basis, so you might want to plan for this and set aside a regular amount from your monthly wage, so that you don’t face a financial shock every third month when contributions are due.

Edited to add: If it helps you to get your head around the figures, let me explain how it works for me. I opted out of pay increases at the start of term, so I still take the 2016 rate, which is £36,009 a year. This means all my figures here are lower than yours will be, so please don’t worry if these numbers don’t match what you were expecting. I’m under retirement age, so I get an uplift in respect of social insurance contributions, meaning that my total pay is £37,629. That’s a monthly wage of £3,135. Tax (£434 per month) is deducted at source, leaving take-home pay of £2,701 a month. I pay £1,035 in social insurance contributions each quarter — I save £385 a month to make sure I’ve got enough to pay this. That leaves £2,316 a month to cover rent, bills, expenses and any private insurance or long-term savings you may have (I am not nearly as good at that kind of thing as I should be!).

One last edit: Deputies’ pay scales are published in the annual States’ Accounts (for example, see p70 of the 2019 Accounts). Of course, as a member of the public, you’d expect to know how much your elected representatives are paid — but when you’re on the receiving end of all that openness, it can feel a little daunting, so you just deserve to know in advance about it!

Obviously, everyone’s financial circumstances and commitments are different, and this is one of those areas where it might be especially hard to have the conversation with existing Deputies about how they make it work for them. I have (hopefully) set out the basic facts, so you can figure out how it might work for you. I’d be glad to try and answer any more detailed questions on an individual basis, if you’d like to get in touch.

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