Guidance for Candidates and Agents at local government elections in England

Local campaigning

In some instances, people spend money to promote a candidate without providing  or transferring something for the candidate’s use or benefit during the campaign. Likewise, people may spend money to criticise a candidate or encourage voters not to support them.

Organisations or individuals, who are not standing as candidates at the elections,  who campaign for or against a candidate in a ward are known as ‘local non-party campaigners’. This is also known as spending under section 75 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

Local non-party campaigners can spend up to £50 + 0.5p per elector campaigning for or against a candidate in the ward. This is the permitted sum. The  number of electors is the number of local government electors registered to vote on the last day for publication of the notice of election in the ward.1  It applies once the candidate is officially a candidate (see When do you officially become a candidate?).

A local non-party campaigner cannot spend more than this permitted sum without the agent’s written authorisation to incur the additional spending, which will count towards the candidate’s spending limit.2


Example A

A party sends out some leaflets that promote the candidate, directly to voters. They inform the candidate they’re going to do so in advance.

In this example, they have not provided anything to the candidate – they have just told the candidate what they are doing. They have campaigned for the candidate themselves.

Although the leaflets may benefit the candidate, the party has not given something to the candidate that the candidate can then decide whether or how to use.

If there are 1,000 people on the ward electoral register, the permitted sum for the party would be:  

£50 + (1000 × 0.5p)  

£50 + (£5) = £55

The party cannot spend over this permitted sum without getting written authorisation from the agent.


If a local non-party campaigner incurs spending over the permitted sum, then this additional spending must be reported by them to the Returning Officer within 21 days of the result being declared.3  There is a separate return and declaration that must be completed for the local non-party campaigner to report authorised expenses.


The authorised expenses must also be included in the candidate’s spending return.4  Money that is incurred by campaigners in local campaigns that has been authorised by the agent is candidate spending and counts towards the spending limit.5

The authorised expenses may also be paid by the person authorised to incur them.6  If they do make the payments, and the spending is over £50, then this will be a donation to the candidate and must be reported in the spending return.7

See Making payments for candidate spending and Candidate donations for more information.

Non-party campaigners planning a local campaign should read our guidance for local non-party campaigners.

Local campaigning by parties

Parties must also be aware that  any spending by the party on local campaigning for one of their candidates that is not authorised by the agent, will count as party spending.8  At elections covered by a party regulated period, this spending must be included in the party's spending return.9     

By law there must be a UK Parliamentary general election by 28 January 2025. This means that it is likely that campaigning at the elections in May 2024 will be covered by a party regulated period.

In contrast, any authorised expenses will only need to appear in the local campaigning forms and candidate spending return as above.


Example B

The agent agrees to authorise the party to spend over the £50 + 0.5p per elector permitted sum on spending to promote the candidate. The agent must provide written authorisation before the party spends over the permitted sum. In this scenario, the party also agrees to make the payments for these authorised expenses.

The agent must report this authorised spending in the candidate’s return, as it will count towards the candidate’s spending limit. As the party have paid for these authorised expenses, these must also be reported as a donation to the candidate if the value is over £50.10

The party must complete a separate return and declaration to report these expenses and submit these to the Returning Officer within 21 days of the result being declared.11  As the spending is reported in the candidate’s spending return, it does not need to be reported in the party’s spending return.12

Last updated: 1 December 2023