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

Preparing for managing the delivery of outsourced work

As part of your preparations for the delivery of the poll, you should check in with suppliers to finalise arrangements well before the start of the election period. This is especially important if you have long-standing contracts in place and you should check that all contractual arrangements are still appropriate and fully meet your requirements, or if there have been changes of personnel on either side. 

As part of the pre-poll check in you should cover:

  • who the key contacts are from each side, and who can be contacted when the primary contacts are not available (including out-of-hours) to ensure that work progresses without unnecessary delay
  • the timeline for all stages of the work to be delivered, including:
    • when you will provide data and other information to the contractor
    • when each round of proofs will be provided to you for each item being produced, and the deadline for you to undertake your checks and respond for each
    • the printing and fulfilment windows for each item, including when and how quality assurance checks will take place at each stage 
    • the despatch window for each item, including likely delivery dates given the delivery service to be used and the quantities being despatched on each date
    • the management of files of additional electors/electors to be removed from the data (where applicable)
  • any proposed use of sub-contractors; including in relation to the use of downstream access providers (DSAs) for the delivery of materials to electors
  • the formats and communication channels to be used to provide information to suppliers (especially data from your EMS), share proofs and provide confirmation of receipt of data, items or sign-off of proofs etc. throughout the process, and for confirmation of despatch of items. This is important to agree in advance to support a clear audit trail of each stage of the process
  • the exact specifications for each item being produced; items such as ballot papers must, by law, be printed in accordance with the directions for printing in the appendix to the relevant election rules. For example, you should check with your print supplier the maximum size of ballot papers that they can produce and what contingency arrangements will be in place should longer ballot papers be required
  • how you will inform each other of any issues that arise, and the escalation process involved for decision making and resolution if needed

Once you have agreed on all of the particular arrangements as above, you should produce a written document which contains all of the details and can be referred to throughout the process to ensure every stage is managed and delivered as per your mutually agreed specifications. 

It is important to remember that the agreed deadlines will apply to both parties, so you will need to make sure that you carry out all required actions on the dates agreed to support the completion of the work to the agreed timetable.

You can find more guidance to support you when working with suppliers in our section on quality assurance and proofing of election materials

Last updated: 19 December 2023