LUU take no action against new SU officer who exceeded campaign spend limit in elections

Formal complaints were not recognised due to candidates submitting expenses after the deadline


Leeds University Union (LUU) has said it will not take action against a candidate who went over the maximum campaign spending limit of £30 in the recent student elections.

Newly elected Union Affairs and Communications Officer, Lucy Hart, was allegedly said to have exceeded the maximum spend and to have declared £47.96 on the expense form, but has clarified that she only overspent by £2.

Lucy has since apologised for her over-expenditure, explaining that she gained favours from friends who provided paints and printing supplies and that “no issues were raised with this” from LUU. She also said she had been “transparent” with election staff throughout the whole campaign.

A University of Leeds student who contacted LUU on March 8th to formally complain about Lucy’s over-expenditure was told by the union that no action would be taken against Lucy due to the deadline for complaints having passed.

Rob* told The Tab Leeds that Lucy did not submit her campaign expenses until the week after the election results had been announced, despite the deadline for submitting expenses being on the last day of voting on February 29th. LUU has since confirmed that it was not only Lucy who submitted her expenses late, but that all candidates running for student elections also submitted their expenses after the deadline had passed.

Claiming that she had “falsified organisational documents”, Rob explained that Lucy submitted a receipt for personalised love hearts costing £47.96 to a shared Google Drive, but only declared £32 in a cost breakdown Google Sheet.

Lucy has since clarified that the hearts she used for her campaign were purchased with money gifted to her in a voucher. She said: “The love hearts cost me £32 (£47.96) with the use of an Amazon gift voucher given by a family member for my birthday”.

Rob said that Lucy’s expenses also explained that she had used a portion of another candidate’s budget to purchase the love hearts, which he claimed was not allowed in student elections. He also believed that the other candidate was left without enough remaining budget to cover this cost.

Rob claimed that Lucy did not declare printing costs as well as spray paint, which was used to make materials in a campaign video posted on her Instagram account: “This is clearly the same spray paint used for her ‘LUCY’ signs in LUU and ‘HART 4 LUU’ hung in Roger Stevens. This spray paint is not allocated for in her expenses.”

Lucy has since explained that she received help from friends who provided her with printing and paint for her materials. She said: “I gained favours from friends in terms of printing and paints with one friend having paints as a keen artist and another having their own printer.

“I also utilised the Helix facility at University of Leeds, which lots of other candidates also used, which provides free resources such as paper, paints and cardboard. Cardboard I collected from recycling bins. The candidate I borrowed from did have a significant amount of their budget left.”

Another student, James* claimed to have overheard Lucy explicitly tell another student she had gone over the spending limit, which resulted in him making a formal complaint before the complaints deadline.

Rob explained that he was not able to lodge a complaint with LUU about Lucy’s late submission as the deadline for complaints had then passed. He claimed that on paper, this deadline was one hour after the election results were announced, but that he was verbally told it was 24 hours.

Rob also said that Lucy’s expenses were automatically flagged with the Returning Officer for being over the spending limit, but that no action was taken due to them being submitted after the complaints deadline.

He said that in going “aggressively beyond the maximum limit for the campaign” and “failing to accurately declare her expenses”, Lucy gained a “totally unfair advantage over other candidates who have adhered to the regulations.”

Rob added that he has now approached the CEO of LUU with a second complaint and said: “It is imperative that LUU takes immediate and decisive action to investigate these allegations.”

Lucy Hart said: “I have been transparent with LUU election staff about my spending through the whole process, and no issues were raised with this. The amount spent was significantly less than suggested.

“I really am sorry that I overspent. It is a shame that these elections have turned sour considering the process has been stressful for all candidates involved. I do feel a personal attack has been led against me which has been distressing. Otherwise, I enjoyed my LUU election experience and appreciated getting to know all the lovely candidates.”

A spokesperson for Leeds University Union said: “Candidates received guidance during the campaign period outlining the sanctions for breaking various rules. Our elections follow a rigorous process to ensure their integrity – the measures we take to do this are outlined in our Bye-Laws. One of the conditions of us holding an election is that we appoint an independent Returning Officer to ensure that the measures are followed.

“The Returning Officer has judged that under LUU Bye-laws, complaints relating to the conduct of candidates cannot be considered once the result of the election is known; the election rules only cover the period up to and including the count, and the only grounds to complain after the count would be either the conduct of the count itself, or to appeal against a previous ruling for a complaint made during the campaigning period.

“LUU Bye-laws are very clear in their language around these timelines, and we are bound to follow them under charity law. All candidates who submitted their expenses did so after the expense deadline on 29 February, including any complainants.”

*Names have been changed for anonymity

Featured image via Google Maps 

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