Monthly Archives: February 2015

Loans register now added

You can now search for lenders, and lender details are included on the party reports and recipient pages. As with funders, if you are logged in, you can also suggest merging similarly named lenders.

I’ve treated “lenders” and “funders” as interchangeable, and so they have the same details pages. In many cases, funders are also lenders (for example, Stephen Lloyd MP).

One quirk that I’ve picked up on is the fact that loans which are converted into donations, don’t appear on the donations register. This surprised me, and I would have thought that someone converting a loan into a donation will end up receiving a lot less scrutiny than someone making a straightforward donation. So, although the addition of the loans register in 2006 is a significant improvement on the situation that lead to the cash for honours scandal, it still isn’t ideal. I’m thinking about how I might make these conversions more explicit; any suggestions would be welcome.

The next big job on my list is to return to the user generated content, and allow users to add descriptions to funder, recipient and tag pages. But before I do this, I want to take some time out and apply for some grants. I’m unemployed and doing this project entirely using my own resources at the moment; if it is to continue, I really need to get some funding of my own (if you’re interested in helping in this respect, please do email me via james *at* partyfunding *dot* uk – be aware that I’ll be reporting any sources of funding on this website in the interests of transparency).

Colorful Speech Bubbles

Version 0.3 is live: tabs, tags and links!

The latest version of the Party Funding database is now live, which has also been updated with the latest donations register published by the Electoral Commission, which was published yesterday.

There are three new features which have been added to this version:

  • Links: logged in users can now add links to funder and recipient pages.
  • Tags: logged in users can now tag funder and recipient pages. They can also add links to specific tags.
  • Better organisation: I’ve replaced the boxes with information in them on the donor and recipient pages, and replaced them with tabbed dividers. I was concerned that people were only spotting the top level information and missing the rest of the data. It should also now be more accessible on mobile devices.

The tagging feature in particular will allow users to organise all items on the database in a more useful way. For example, I’ve created a “Michael Ashcroft” tag which links his personal donations with that of his wife, Susan Antstey and Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd. I’m also intending to use tags for more generic purposes, such as listing celebrities and some of the more famous party funding controversies. But of course, it’s open to anyone else to help with the taxonomy. Please do have a play with it!

There is a bit of a grey area between donor records which I’ve merged, and ones which I’m intending to tag. For example, should all contributions from a specific trade union be listed as just coming from that one union, or should contributions from regional branches be listed separately, and tagged? I’m currently in two minds about that one, and would welcome feedback.

This update was a bit longer in coming than I would have liked – hence my lack of readiness for when the register was published yesterday. Apologies; I found that I had managed to break my log in system and had to pull the entire website apart trying to figure out how I did it! On the plus side, adding the new donations register went very smoothly (although there are some weird records which I am currently trying to get to the bottom of).

Next: it is long overdue the time I incorporated the loans register, so that will be my next task.

Version 0.25 is live

This latest update doesn’t look like much, but there’s a lot going on under the surface. As a result, the website should work a lot faster now than it has been, especially when opening new pages and making new searches on the front page.

The most substantial change is the creation of a Party Funding Overview page. This is primarily for looking up the quarter political party funding data, which the Electoral Commission publishes every few months (the next one should be out in a few weeks). My page now provides the same information as the Electoral Commission’s own quarterly reports, with the exception of the loans data which I haven’t incorporated yet.

Building this page has proven to be a surprisingly frustrating process, but I’ve learned a lot both about how not to design a website and the donations data. One of the quirks that sharp eyed people will notice is that my list of “late” registered donations is somewhat different from the Electoral Commission’s report. I’ve double checked all this, and both my data is accurate and my tool is working properly. What seems to be happening is that the Commission defines a late declaration in its reports differently to how it is defined in the law.

So, for example, the Scottish National Party have a habit of registering donations a day after the deadline (which is 30 days after the end of each quarter). The Electoral Commission does not mention this in its report. It isn’t a big deal and subsequently I’ve defined donations that are only a little bit late as simply “missed deadline”.

However, quite substantial donations are also being skipped. For example, the Green Party declared 4 donations more than six months late totalling over £9,000 in the last quarter. Why this wasn’t flagged by the Electoral Commission when 2 much less late donations made to UKIP were is not immediately clear to me. I’m not suggesting any kind of party bias – I can’t detect any kind of pattern at all – just that I’m curious if they have a different definition that I haven’t understood.

Looking at the late donations has also flagged up a worrying trend which I hope to blog about in more detail later.

Anyway, now this is out of the way, I hope to get back to adding more tools for adding user-generated content. Watch this space.