Guidance for Candidates and Agents at local government elections in England

Introduction to our guidance for candidates and agents

This guidance aims to provide practical advice for anyone who wants to stand as a candidate or be an agent at a district, borough, county or unitary authority election in England. Standing for election can be complicated, but we hope that our guidance will make it as straightforward as possible.

Candidates and their agents must follow certain rules set out in legislation. Our guidance sets out the stages that you need to go through when standing at a local government election. You do not have to follow this guidance, but if you do, you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law.

It includes relevant factual material as well as links to sources of further information. Each section includes a number of forms and resources, which can be directly accessed via links in the text.

You can find out more in How to use our guidance.

Election timetable

We have published a generic election timetable below. For scheduled polls we will publish a specific timetable which will be made available on our website.

If a by-election has been called, you will be able to obtain a copy of the specific timetable for that election from the Returning Officer. 

Data protection

Please note that the data protection legislation applies to the processing of all personal data. Please contact the Information Commissioner's Office for further information about how the current data protection legislation affects you.

We are help to help, so please contact us if you have any questions. Please see Contacting us for contact details. 

Terms and expressions we use

You will normally be doing enough to comply with the law if you follow this guidance.

We use ‘must’ when we refer to a specific requirement. We use ‘should’ for items we consider to be minimum good practice, but which are not legal or regulatory requirements.

We use ‘you’ to cover both the candidate and the agent in this guidance. When we talk about donations, we use ‘you’ to refer to the person who is responsible at the time for dealing with donations.

At local government elections, the local government area is subdivided into electoral areas for the purposes of administering the election. Throughout the parts we have used the term ‘ward’ to refer to the electoral area for any local government election. The term ‘ward’ should, however, be read as ‘electoral division’ in elections for unitary and county councils.