UUP outspends all parties in Assembly election campaign
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) spent more than £6,000 getting each of their MLAs elected to the Assembly, more than twice as much as the DUP, it has been revealed.
With UUP boss, Tom Elliott, approaching the first anniversary of his leadership victory later this month, Electoral Commission figures showed the party spent a total of £96,495 on their campaign.
With just 16 MLAs returned, that is an average of £6,031 apiece.
The cost-per-candidate for the DUP by contrast was just £2,348; having spent an overall £84,514 but achieving a total of 36 MLAS.
DUP director of elections Simon Hamilton accused the UUP of "throwing money" at the campaign.
"Whatever the amount is spent by a political party fighting an election, it must be remembered that you cannot buy the public's support. People do not cast their vote lightly," he said.
"There are some parties however, who over recent years have attempted to cover their lack of policy or direction by throwing money at an election campaign. The Ulster Unionist Party has demonstrated this clearly in recent elections, whether it was paid from the Conservative coffers or from their own funds."
There was no immediate response from the UUP last night.
The hardline Traditional Unionist Voice comes ahead of even the UUP, however, spending £6,413 with just one standard-bearer, its leader, Jim Allister, elected.
Then next to the Ulster Unionists came the Alliance party, which spent nearly £29,000 to secure eight seats with a cost-per-candidate of £3,574. The SDLP spent a total of £38,282 to emerge with 14 seats, an average of £2,733 for each successful MLA.
Sinn Fein, which had a bill of £51,851 and saw 29 members elected, had the lowest candidate cost of £1,787, but other parties have questioned their cost base.
The DUP's Mr Hamilton said:
"Their ability to recycle people featured in an election broadcast used both during the Republic's General Election and the Assembly election only raises the question of exactly which Sinn Fein candidate the individuals in the broadcast had pledged to vote for."
Overall, the 13 parties which submitted their returns on time spent a total of £338,739 during the regulated period from January 6 to polling day on 5 May, just over £100,000 of it on party political broadcasts and a further £96,000 on advertising.
Parties who failed to win a single seat included the British National Party, which spent £3,181, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) at £18,176 while the Progressive Unionists spent just £310.
The Assembly election bills for the five main parties on the Stormont Executive came in at:
e Alliance £28,593
e DUP £84,514
e SDLP £38,262
e Sinn Fein £51,851
e UUP £96,495