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The Conservatives Claim a Website Design Firm They Handed £100,000 in Taxpayer Cash is ‘Independent’ but it’s Listed at an Address Owned by a CCHQ Staffer

Records seen by Byline Times throw doubt on the party’s claims about the tech firm employed by Conservative MPs

Rishi Sunak. Photo: Kay Roxby/Alamy Live News

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Claims by the Conservatives that a website design service handed £100,000 in taxpayer money by the party’s MPs is “independent” have been called into question, after records seen by this paper show it listed at an address owned by a Conservative Party employee.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that Bluetree Website Services had received the money to design constituency websites for Conservative MPs, the cost of which was then claimed back in expenses.

The revelation prompted a complaint by the Labour councillor James Walsh to Parliament’s expenses watchdog, in relation to rules stating that expenses should not be used for party political purposes.

Responding to the story, a Conservative spokesman claimed that Bluetree was “independent” from the party.

However, Bluetree is not listed on Companies House as an independent entity and there is no address for the organisation listed on their website, which does, however, contain the imprint: “Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative party”.

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Asked about the status of Blueetree, The Guardian reported that CCHQ had claimed it was “part of a registered company separate from the Conservative party” but would not say what that company was.

However, an invoice seen by Byline Times, which was sent by Bluetree to a former Conservative MP, shows its address as being a residential property in South West England. Land Registry records suggest that this property is owned by Graham Godwin-Pearson. 

Godwin-Pearson, is a former Conservative councillor who is listed as working for a current Conservative peer and was listed online as a CCHQ staffer under the party’s former chairman Greg Hands. 

He is also the owner of a separate limited company which is listed on Companies House as offering “Information technology consultancy activities” and whose latest accounts show more than £200,000 in capital and reserves.

The Conservatives and Godwin-Pearson had not responded to requests by this paper to explain his relationship to Bluetree and the party by the time of publication.


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However, a Conservative Party spokesperson told The Guardian that “Bluetree is an independent organisation but is a preferred supplier of the Conservative party.

“MPs using Ipsa money for a website to promote constituency activity is compliant with Ipsa rules. Bluetree works closely with Ipsa to ensure guidelines are followed.

“Bluetree and the Conservative party have made it clear to candidates who were MPs that they should not be using any Ipsa-funded website during the election.”

Tom Brake, the director of campaign group Unlock Democracy, suggested rules would have been broken if any of the money given to Bluetree was used for campaigning purposes.

“The rules are clear. Taxpayers’ money cannot be used by MPs for party political campaign purposes. Yet Bluetree’s promotional material about their websites makes it clear that that is their intended purpose”, Brake told The Guardian.

“Running surveys on a website, paid for with public money, which elicit information about likely voting intention constitutes a breach of the expenses rules. Unless these activities have been separately funded by the MP, any MP using taxpayer’s funds in this way should be required to reimburse them immediately.”

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