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

Providing information on election spending

Candidates are required by law to follow certain rules regarding:

•    how much they can spend
•    who they can accept donations from
•    what they must report after the election 

You should ensure that candidates and election agents have access to information on calculating the spending limit1 (including the electorate figure and whether the constituency is a county or borough constituency), spending returns and declarations in order to enable them to meet reporting requirements. 

Further information on the two types of constituency can be found here.

At a general election, candidates will need the total number of electors on the UK Parliamentary register for the constituency on the last day for the publication of the notice of election (i.e. on the second day after the writ is received) excluding any attainers who will not be 18 years old on or before polling day. 

If you are not also the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) or your constituency crosses local authority boundaries, you should liaise with the relevant ERO(s) so that you are able to provide candidates with an accurate electorate figure that will allow them to calculate their spending limits. It is important that candidates are provided with the correct electorate figures so that they know how much they can spend. 

We have produced guidance on spending and donations at UK Parliamentary general elections which can be found in Part 3 of our guidance for candidates and agents . Our template presentation for candidates and agents also contains guidance on spending and donations. You can use these resources to provide candidates and agents with information on spending returns and declarations in order to enable them to meet their reporting requirements.

UK Parliamentary By-Elections

For by-elections, the slides on spending will need to be amended to reflect the different regulated period and spending limits that apply to by-elections.

The spending limit for candidates during the regulated period at a UK Parliamentary by-election is £100,000.

The regulated period begins on the day after the date the candidate officially becomes a candidate and ends on the date of the poll.

A person officially becomes a candidate at a UK Parliamentary by-election at the time the vacancy occurred if on or before this date they have already declared that they are intending to be a candidate at the election (or another person has declared that the person is intending to be a candidate).2

If after this date they or others declare that they will be a candidate at the election, they will become a candidate on the date such a declaration is made, or on the date that they submit their nomination papers, whichever is the earlier.

For further information, see also our guidance for candidates and agents at UK Parliamentary by-elections.

Last updated: 19 December 2023