74 candidates in Council election spent £49,751 enticing votes

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The seventy four candidates who contested the recent Derry City and Strabane District Council elections collectively declared almost £50,000 in expenses.

According to a summary of election expenses as declared by the candidates and their election agents, the Foyleside People Before Profit (PBP) candidate Sha Gillespie spent the most (£1,405) whilst Faughan UUP candidate Ronnie McKeegan recorded the lowest expenditure with £118.33.

There appeared, however, no correlation between expenditure and electoral success.

Of the five top spending candidates - Ms Gillespie in Foyleside, Derg Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate Derek Hussey (£1,191.89), Derg Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) candidate Robert Oliver (£1,115.15) and Waterside Sinn Féin candidates Bridget Meehan and Christopher Jackson (both £1,032.17) - only two were actually elected, Mr Hussey and Mr Jackson.

The summary also shows that two independent candidates, Michael Carlin in the Waterside District Electoral Area (DEA) and Patrick Mellon in The Moor DEA, both of whom coincidentally polled a paltry 113 first preferences, did not declare any election expenses.

The five lowest spending candidates were Mr McKeegan in Faughan, Ballyarnett Alliance candidate Danny McCloskey (£162), Waterside United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) candidates Dave Malcolm (£148.32) and Kyle Thompson (£178.31) and Faughan UKIP candidate Geoff Cruickshank (£284.31).

The total expenditure amongst all 74 candidates across the seven DEAs within Derry City and Strabane District was £49,751.33.

And whilst the top expenditure was in the Waterside DEA where 15 candidates stood, the second and third highest aggregates were in two of the Strabane DEAs, Sperrin and Derg.

The total collective election expenses in each of the DEAs were as follows: Waterside (£9,742.55); Sperrin (£8,326.47); Derg (£7,378.90); Foyleside (£6,701.63); Faughan (£6,450.82); The Moor (£5,585.73); and Ballyarnett (£5,565.23).

The Presiding Councillor of the new Derry City and Strabane Council, Sinn Féin’s Maolíosa McHugh declared £484.08 in election expenses following his successful campaign in Derg, whilst the Deputy Presiding Councillor, Maurice Devenney of the DUP spent £847.19 in Faughan as did his successful running mate Gary Middleton.

Meanwhile, in the Waterside DEA the successful DUP candidates Hilary McClintock, David Ramsey and Drew Thompson all spent £802.89, whilst Mary Hamilton of the UUP spent £749.83.

Under the current legislation the spending limit for each candidate is £600 plus five pence per elector on the register for the DEA in which candidates are contesting.

This means that if there were 6000 registered electors in a DEA the spending limit would be £600 plus (0.05 X 6000), £900.

Joint candidates, however, have lower spending limits, as they are able to share some of the costs, such as election and polling agents or election material.

The Electoral Commission warns that it is an offence to incur expenses over these limits.