It dawns on me that it isn't really enough for Returning Officers to understand our internal selection rules, but might be useful to tell other interested parties. If you like, it provides an insight into the process for those who might choose to take part in the future.
Besides, I'm quite proud of this, as it was something that I had been pushing for...
One feature of the new selection rules is the change from dictating the number of pieces of paper etc. that each candidate may produce and send/give out, to having an overall expenditure cap for the selection. English Candidates Committee has produced guidelines for each type of election, but the shortlisting committee may decide that a different amount is appropriate for their own selection. When they are agreeing this, please ensure that they understand that the intention is to create a level playing-field for all candidates, and to make sure that applicants are not ‘priced out’ of the selection.
Each shortlisted candidate is responsible for maintaining their own up-to-date, itemised, record of expenditure during the selection and must keep receipts so that evidence of expenditure can be produced if required. Each candidate must bring their list of expenditure to the count.
If someone (another candidate or anyone who is entitled to ask for an Returning Officer ruling) lodges a complaint with the Returning Officer that a candidate has breached the expenditure cap, they must provide some level of justification for their challenge. The Returning Officer must then ask all candidates to produce their list of expenditure at that point (unless the challenge is made at the count it would be reasonable to allow 24 hours for this). If the Returning Officer then believes that the complaint is worthy of investigation, all candidates then have 48 hours to produce a detailed statement of their expenditure, including evidence – i.e. receipts, invoices, quotes etc. It is quite likely that receipts will not be immediately available for all elements of campaign expenditure, so quotations, unpaid invoices etc. may also be provided.
The candidates do not have to provide the Returning Officer with information about their expenses unless there is a challenge on these grounds.
The reason for asking all candidates to bring their list of expenditure to the count is so that, if the result itself is challenged on expenditure grounds, the Returning Officer can have immediate access to information to enable them to decide whether or not the complaint is likely to be justified. Otherwise the announcement of the result would always have to be delayed, maybe for an appreciable period.
This maintains the principle that we have carried throughout the rules, that the Returning Officer will investigate possible problems but that the onus is on the candidates to abide by the rules and to provide evidence, if challenged, that they have done so.
Now, call me old-fashioned, but this seems to be pretty reasonable, and allows applicants to decide for themselves how they will campaign - more, lower quality leaflets, for example... It's called freedom to demonstrate the abilities that we need from a candidtae, judgement, campaigning skill. Seems obvious too me...