Annual Report and Accounts 2021/22

Overview

This section provides an overview of the Electoral Commission, our purpose, our performance during the last year and the key risks to achieving our goals. 

We have included summary financial information within the performance report. This is consistent with the financial statements, where more detail is available. 

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) established the Electoral Commission. We are independent of government and political parties and directly accountable to the UK, Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.  

We have prepared our 2021/22 Annual Report and Accounts in accordance with an accounts direction, set out on page 139, issued by HM Treasury under paragraph 17(2) of Schedule 1 PPERA. 

We have prepared the powers and sanctions report on page 54 in accordance with paragraph 15 Schedule 19(b) and paragraph 27 Schedule 19(c) PPERA. 

Preface and foreward

About us

Our role

The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the United Kingdom. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity.

Our vision and goals

Our vision is to be a world-class public sector organisation – innovative, delivering great value and getting right what matters most to voters and legislators.

In 2021/22 we worked towards achieving four goals:

  1. To enable the continued delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  2. To ensure an increasingly trusted and transparent system of regulation in political finance, overseeing compliance, promoting understanding amongst those regulated and proactively pursuing breaches
  3. To be an independent and respected centre of expertise, using knowledge and insight to further the transparency, fairness and efficiency of our democratic system, and help adapt it to the modern, digital age
  4. To provide value for money, making best use of our resources and expertise to deliver services that are attuned to what matters most to voters. This goal underpins and supports all of our work

From 2022/23 we have updated our vision and strategic objectives in our Corporate Plan.

As an organisation, we will work to promote public confidence in the electoral system and ensure its integrity. Our vision will be to ensure people trust, value and take part in elections.

We plan to achieve this vision by delivering these five strategic objectives:

  1. Accessible registration and voting
  2. Transparent political campaigning and compliant political finance
  3. Resilient local electoral services
  4. Fair and effective electoral law
  5. A modern and sustainable electoral system

Our role across the UK

We deliver for voters across all parts of the UK, with Electoral Commission offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. We work closely with the UK and devolved governments and, since April 2021, we now have accountabilities to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd, and are funded by each of these for the work undertaken on elections under their devolved or retained powers. Our Governance Section includes more detail on our accountability arrangements and, from page 31, sets out specific reports in relation to our work for the Scottish Parliament and Senedd. 

Our 2021/22 year at a glance

April to June 2021

  • We supported the successful delivery of the complex set of polls in May 2021, including those elections deferred from May 2020 due to COVID-19.
  • Over one million people registered to vote in Great Britain during the period of our ‘Got 5’ voter registration campaign.
  • Our ‘Your Vote is Yours Alone’ campaign raised awareness among voters of their rights and produced a suite of resources, for local authorities and other organisations to use to spread the message.
  • We achieved an 87% response rate in our Pulse staff survey. This is 8 percentage points higher than the pulse survey in November 2020, and 1 percentage point higher than the last full ‘all staff’ survey in March 2020.
  • John Pullinger started as Chair of the Electoral Commission.
  • From 1 April the Electoral Commission became accountable to, and funded by, the Scottish Parliament and Senedd for devolved functions and elections. 
  • 64% of the public surveyed said they were satisfied with our public information service.

July to September 2021

  • We supported the electoral registration canvass across Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, providing advice and support to Electoral Registration Officers and running a new public awareness campaign in Northern Ireland. 
  • We published three evaluation reports on the May 2021 elections, concluding the elections had been well-run despite the challenging circumstances.
  • The Committee on Standards in Public Life published a report on the regulation of election finance, recommending important changes to the Commission’s role and powers. 
  • The Elections Bill was published and introduced in the UK Parliament. We worked with officials to provide advice and expertise as required.
  • We issued our regulatory support survey, to support us to understand our stakeholders’ needs better.
  • Dr Katy Radford was appointed as Commissioner for Northern Ireland. 

October to December 2021

  • We published guidance for electoral administrators, parties and campaigners in advance of the May 2022 elections.
  • We published research looking at public attitudes to voting processes and the information available around elections.
  • We published the campaign spending returns of political parties and registered non-party campaigners that spent £250,000 or less campaigning at the 2021 Scottish Parliament election or Senedd election.
  • We submitted our first Wales Corporate Plan and estimate to the Llywydd’s Committee and our first estimate to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body.
  • We consulted in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland on a new equality, diversity and inclusion strategy and on a refreshed approach to Equality Impact Assessments.

January to March 2022

  • We published the campaign spending returns of political parties that spent over £250,000 campaigning at the 2021 Scottish Parliament election or Senedd election.
  • We published our report on the 2021 Northern Ireland electoral registration canvass. 
  • We ran our first virtual pre-election seminar in Northern Ireland for candidates and agents contesting the May 2022 Assembly election. 
  • To support Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers in advance of the May 2022 elections, we held joint briefing events with the Electoral. Management Board for Scotland and Wales Electoral Coordination Board 
  • We ran ‘Welcome to your vote week’ in Scotland and Wales in partnership with education bodies and youth groups, to provide information on registering and voting to 15-17 year olds.
  • We launched a day of activity to target newly enfranchised foreign nationals in Scotland and Wales with information about registration and voting. 

Our year in numbers

  • Used £17.2m of voted resources, including £0.7m capital spend
  • Invested 65% of our net resource expenditure on staff costs (£10.8m)
  • Achieved 67% employee engagement score
  • Answered 5,324 public enquiries – a 18% increase on last year
  • Responded to 150 Freedom of Information requests
  • Published 412 donation and loan reports from parties and campaigners 
  • Notified 93.9% of applicants of the outcome of their registration application within targets based on complexity (simple applications: 35 working days, complex applications: 45 working days, Non-Party Campaigners: 5 working days)
  • Completed 66.7% of investigations within targets based on complexity (simple cases: 90 calendar days, complex cases: 180 calendar days, highly complex: individual targets set on a case by case basis)
  • Published 724 annual statement of accounts for political parties and accounting units
  • Published 100% of our guidance products on time with no substantial errors
  • Responded to 99.5% requests for advice from local authorities within 3 days
  • Issued £58k of civil sanctions in our role as a regulator

Download our full Annual Report and Accounts 2021/22