New guidance supports charities to campaign with confidence all year-round

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New guidance for non-party campaigners has been published today by the Electoral Commission, to promote their understanding of the rules and support them to campaign with confidence all year-round.

Electoral law acts to control the amount of money spent on political campaigning in the lead up to elections and referendums; this is an important part of ensuring fairness, and of enabling transparency for voters, but the rules can be difficult to navigate for organisations which are not used to political campaigning. 

Following the last general election – which, as an unscheduled poll, caused additional complexity – non-party campaigners called for greater clarity on how the regulated period and other rules worked, so that they could campaign with confidence throughout the year. The Commission has worked closely with charities to produce a new guidance resource, using real-life case studies to provide clear, authoritative advice to campaigners. 

Louise Edwards, the Commission’s Director of Regulation, said: 

“We understand the challenges faced by organisations which don’t regularly engage in political campaigning, and it’s an important part of our role to support them in understanding how they can comply with the law.  Campaigning is a vital part of the democratic process and we hope this guidance will enable groups to campaign with confidence all year-round. 

“The feedback from campaigners has been invaluable in making it as clear and helpful as possible.  We thank the third sector organisations and UK charity regulators who worked with us on producing this new resource.”  


Karl Wilding, Chief Executive of National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) , said: 

“This new guidance provides much greater clarity for charities and should make it clearer that charities can campaign with confidence. Although there are still issues which we believe need changes to the legislation itself, we’re very pleased that the Electoral Commission has taken our feedback on board and done what it can within current electoral law to address many of the concerns charities have expressed about their ability to campaign.”


Vicky Browning, CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), said: 

“Non-party campaigning, like that undertaken by charities, is an indicator of a healthy democracy and I am pleased that this guidance clearly emphasises this. 

“The Lobbying Act is a complex piece of legislation that requires reform but this guidance is an essential step forward in helping civil society leaders to navigate the rules and understand how they can – and should – represent their cause and community in the run up to an election.”

“I would like to thank the Electoral Commission for working openly and collaboratively with ACEVO, NCVO and Bond to produce this document.”

At UK parliamentary general elections, campaigners that plan to spend more than £20,000 in England –  £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – must register with the Commission, and must then comply with spending limits and also report their spending to the commission after the poll. The regulated period before a general election applies from one year before polling day. This means that campaigners can be unaware that they are in a regulated period until an unscheduled election is called.
 

 

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
  • enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focusing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
  • regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
  • using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy,
  • aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency

The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

  1. The rules for non-party campaigners (NPCs) as set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) were amended by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.
  2. The non-party campaigner rules have been in place since 2000. They are intended to create transparency about who is influencing voters during an election. Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 introduced additional regulations, including a broader range of reportable activities, a requirement to report donations ahead of the poll and new constituency spending limits.
  3. These rules regulate how much is spent on campaigning (spend that can be reasonably regarded as intended to influence voters’ decisions and the outcome of an election). Above a threshold, the rules require individuals and organisations to register with us.
  4. Non-party campaigners that intend to spend over £20,000 in England, or £10,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, at a UK parliamentary general election must register with the Commission and provide accurate spending returns and donations reports.
  5. At the 2017 general election the 18 registered non-party campaigners spent a total of approximately £2.5 million.
  6. NCVO has written a blog on the impact of this new guidance which is available on our WordPress site.
  7. The guidance is available in full on our website. The case studies section is available here

For more information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or press@electoralcommission.org.uk