Guidance for Police Area Returning Officers administering a Police and Crime Commissioner election in England and Wales

Police Area Returning Officer Role and Responsibilities

As PARO you are responsible for the overall conduct of the election of a Police and Crime Commissioner or Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for the police area for which you have been appointed.

In addition to your legal duties, you are also responsible for providing leadership and co-ordinating the work of Local Returning Officers (LRO), to ensure that the election is well-run and that voters and those standing for election receive a consistently high-quality service across the whole of the police area.

As PARO you are personally responsible for the following specific aspects of the PCC election:

  • giving notice of the election1  
  • the nomination procedures2  
  • encouraging participation3  
  • ensuring that the requirements as to the content of candidate election addresses, and the procedures for submitting those addresses, are complied with4  
  • the collation of local totals and calculation of the result5  
  • the declaration of the result6  

Issuing directions

You may also take on responsibility for the following LRO duties by giving direction to the relevant LRO(s): 

  • printing the PCC ballot papers
  • verification (although where polls have been combined, the responsibility for the verification falls on the Returning Officer for the other poll)
  • counting the PCC votes7  

You should take any decision to issue such a direction at an early stage in the process, following consultation with the relevant LROs, in order to provide clarity for all involved and to enable these activities to be planned for and taken forward as appropriate. You should put in place a communications plan for communicating any directions and guidance. 

As part of your considerations you should take into account the number of voting areas in your police area and the scale of the activities that you will need to undertake. If you do take on any of these LRO duties, you will need to ensure that you are adequately resourced to be able to deliver them effectively.

You must do whatever is necessary for conducting the PCC election in your police area. You can give general or specific directions to LROs for any voting area, wholly or partly comprised, within the police area about the discharge of their functions in relation to PCC elections, including directions requiring LROs to take specified steps in preparation for a PCC election and directions requiring them to provide you with information that they have or are entitled to have. LROs are required to comply with any direction you have given to them. You can give directions that apply to all LROs, or only to one or some.8

Combined polls

Where the poll at the PCC election is combined with the poll at another election the LRO will not have responsibility for the combined functions, which will limit your power to give directions.9 You are only able to exercise your power of direction over LROs in respect of those aspects of the PCC election for which they, as LROs, are responsible (as listed in the bullet points above). Your power of direction does not apply to those combined functions that are taken on by other Returning Officers.

There is, however, one exception and that is in relation to the verification of ballot paper accounts. As PARO you are able to direct the time by which verification procedures must begin and whichever Returning Officer is responsible for discharging this function must comply with your direction.10  

Further guidance on the issuing of directions can be found in our planning section for PAROs.

Last updated: 16 April 2024