Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Developing plans for the election

Developing plans for the election

Project plan

You should prepare a project plan for the management of the election, treat it as a living document, keep it under regular review, and use it to monitor progress throughout. 

You should record all steps taken to prepare your plan in order to be able to provide an audit trail demonstrating your decision making process. You should be able to explain your decisions, and you should be prepared to do so in response to enquiries.

Your planning should ensure that:

  • voters are able to vote easily and know that their vote will be counted in the way they intended
  • it is easy for people who want to stand for election to find out how to get involved, what the rules are, and what they have to do to comply with these rules
  • everyone can have confidence in the management of the process and the result.

We have produced a template project plan that you may wish to use and adapt to fit your local circumstances. The template includes a number of example deliverables and tasks and you should also add in any others you identify as necessary, including ones specific to your local circumstances. 


Before starting your detailed planning, you should set out what you want to achieve and what success would look like. Your project plan should include clearly defined objectives and success measures to help you to measure the extent to which the conduct of the election has been successful as part of the template project plan.


You should ensure that your planning reflects the particular context and the nature of the election, including any changes to either legislation or the political landscape since the last general election. 

Your project plan should also identify the resources required. Once the fees and charges for the election have been set, you should reconcile projected costs for activities against the available budget. You should take all necessary steps to ensure that the local authority makes the necessary resources available to you to enable you to discharge your functions.

You also need to plan for the implementation of accessibility requirements in the polling stations. Your plans should include:

  • where accessibility needs to be considered
  • which barriers prevent equal access to voting for all persons
  • when you need to action any identified requirements; for example if you need to buy additional equipment - will it be received in time?
  • written notes of all considerations and actions taken in respect of any requested reasonable adjustments

You should also establish working relationships with experts at the local authority who should be able to offer support and advice on any reasonable adjustments needed.

A reasonable adjustment is a change that is made to reduce or remove a disadvantage in relation to someone's disability compared to non-disabled people. For example the removal of physical barriers or providing extra support for disabled persons.

You will need to review your plans to ensure they outline your processes and the data protection safeguards that you have in place, as they will provide a sound basis for you to meet your data protection obligations. Your council’s data protection officer will be able to help you meet your requirements and ascertain best practice. In particular, you will need to ensure that you are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a data controller.

Further detailed guidance on data protection legislation, including registering as a data controller, is contained in our data protection guidance

Cross-boundary constituencies

If you are responsible for a constituency that crosses local authority boundaries, this will have practical implications for the management of key processes and you should reflect this in your planning. For example, you will be responsible for verifying signatures and dates of birth on postal voting statements returned by electors from one or more other local authority areas as well as from your own local authority area.

You will also be responsible for the provision and equipment of polling stations for the entire constituency and will need to decide how to manage this, including how you will ensure you have up-to-date information about the polling places that have been designated for use in other local authority areas.

You should liaise with the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) and other relevant elections staff from the other local authority area(s) in your planning for the delivery of the poll.

Risk register

Risk register

You should also prepare a risk register which should also be a living document and kept under regular review. You should use your risk register to monitor the known risks and document any changes in risk, as well as ensuring that mitigating actions are identified and are being taken forward as appropriate. Your risk register should identify:

  • any difficulties and problems that may occur, and the actions taken to mitigate them
  • the seriousness of any risk by indicating both the likelihood of the risk occurring and the impact of the risk if it did occur 

We have developed a template risk register that you may wish to use. The template provides some example risks and suggestions for mitigating those risks. In addition to the risks identified in the template you should also identify any other risks, including ones specific to your local circumstances, and how you would mitigate those.

Last updated: 19 December 2023