The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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Corporate Plan 2018/19 - 2022/23

This information provides a summary of our aims and objectives over the next five years. Read the Corporate Plan in full (PDF).

Our vision and goals

Our vision is to be a world-class public sector organisation — innovative, delivering great value and getting right what matters most to voters and legislators.

We plan to achieve this vision through a five-year work programme with four goals:

  • Goal 1: To enable the continued 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
  • Goal 2: To ensure an increasingly trusted and transparent system of regulation in political finance, overseeing compliance, promoting understanding amongst those regulated and proactively pursuing breaches
  • Goal 3: To be an independent and respected centre of expertise, using knowledge and insight to further the transparency, fairness and efficiency of our democratic system, and help adapt it to the modern, digital age
  • Goal 4: To provide value for money, making best use of our resources and expertise to deliver services that are attuned to what matters most to voters. This goal underpins and supports all of our work

The changing context

The last five years have seen a lot of changes to our working environment. Increased numbers of complex electoral events (planned and unplanned), cuts to public sector funding, and an increased need to maintain public confidence in the integrity of elections have been key features of this.

These trends have had an important effect on our work, the work of the wider electoral community, and voters — and they are likely to continue. We aim to be robust in dealing with them, as we provide support and oversight to the electoral community (including candidates and parties), improve our effective regulation of elections, and directly deliver referendums (where necessary).

We've also tried to make sure that this plan gives us enough flexibility to respond to unscheduled external events, as we may need to reprioritise our work accordingly.

How we work

In order to deliver this ambitious plan alongside our day-to-day activities, we have divided our work into three categories:

  • Business delivery: At the core of our work are activities as the regulator of political finance, and delivery of the electoral cycle.
  • Improvement projects: Activities in this category intend to make transformative interventions in the way we do things.
  • Innovation and development projects: While these projects are varied in their content, in each case they seek to address strategic challenges which face either us, the wider sector, or our democratic systems overall.

To provide a framework for the organisation, and to ensure we are delivering work to achieve our vision, we've aligned activities to at least one of our four key goals.

Working across the UK

As a public body that works across all nations of the UK, we're flexible and proactive in adapting our approach to suit the needs of different governments, legislatures and electorates. Since the Commission was created, we've fully embraced devolution in our areas of responsibility — providing a tailored service to each nation, but drawing strength from our joint expertise in elections and political finance regulation.

Following the Scotland Act 2016, responsibility for Scottish Parliament elections was transferred to the Scottish Parliament in May 2017 (they already had this responsibility for local government elections). The Wales Act 2017 also transferred responsibility for local government and Assembly elections to the National Assembly for Wales.

These changes mean a further evolution in the ways we report, and are held accountable for, our work in Scotland and Wales. We're working with the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to establish this accountability in terms of both budget and operational delivery.

In England, the devolution of power to local government has grown over the last few years, with ‘devolution deals’ and directly elected mayors.

Over the course of this Corporate Plan, we will see further elections for combined authority mayors. They will, along with the combined authorities, exercise powers and functions devolved from Government in areas such as planning, housing, further education and business support.

We'll develop the role of our English regional teams to support these changes, and to enable us to continue to work collaboratively with local authorities across England as a whole.

Find out more about our devolved offices’ roles in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Our goals and priorities over the next five years

Goal 1: To enable the continued 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.

This goal captures our central role in overseeing the delivery of elections and referendums across the UK’s nations. To achieve this goal, our work focuses on four key areas:

Delivering well-run electoral events

During the period covered by the Corporate Plan, we'll be supporting the delivery of 17 scheduled electoral events — including the UK Parliamentary general election in May 2022. In the lead-up to these events, we'll support electoral administrators, candidates and parties across the UK by providing guidance and tailored advice, as well as information for voters on registration and voting.

We'll also ensure we're fully prepared to respond to any unscheduled electoral events that come up during the period of this plan.

We'll use our performance standards frameworks for EROs and ROs to support and challenge their planning for, and delivery of, well-run electoral registration services and events, but will also review our approach to ensure that we will continue to be able to do this effectively into the future.

We also aim to drive continuous improvement by reporting on the administration of major polls, the accuracy and completeness of electoral registers, and allegations and cases of electoral fraud. Continuously improving our work and processes also helps us to be prepared to respond effectively to any unscheduled events that may occur over the next five years.

Maximising electoral registration

We want to ensure that the UK’s electoral registers support and enable effective participation in elections and referendums for everyone, and to help to maximise electoral registration.

We do this by delivering effective, value-for-money voter registration campaigns across the UK. These campaigns target under-registered groups, such as recent home-movers, young people, students, black and minority ethnic groups, and UK citizens living overseas. We'll continue working in partnership with public, private and voluntary organisations to expand our public awareness activities for voters.

Modernising electoral registration

We'll continue to engage with the Cabinet Office-led Modern Electoral Registration Programme, while encouraging the UK’s governments to work towards an electoral registration system that's more joined-up with other public services and to make registering to vote both even simpler for the public and more efficient for EROs.

This will include evaluating pilot schemes designed to inform potential permanent changes to the annual canvass, and exploring other improvements such as integrating applications into other public service transactions, making better use of national data to identify new electors or home-movers, and looking at the potential of more automatic registration processes.

Tackling electoral fraud

Voters are entitled to be confident that fraud is deterred and detected. We welcomed the review of electoral fraud published by Sir Eric Pickles in 2016, which supported many of the recommendations we have previously highlighted.

The UK Government response to Sir Eric’s review announced that it intended to take forward a number of measures to prevent electoral fraud, including piloting voter ID requirements in polling stations at local elections in 2018. We'll be evaluating the results of these pilots.

We'll continue to monitor and support the work of EROs, ROs, police forces and prosecutors to tackle electoral fraud so voters can be confident that fraud is deterred or prevented, and that any allegations are appropriately investigated and prosecuted.

We'll continue to collect, analyse and publish data from police forces about cases of alleged electoral fraud, which helps us to focus our support and challenge in areas where there is higher risk.

We'll work with the UK Government and Parliament to consider how to strengthen the current voluntary Code of Conduct for Campaigners in Great Britain. We believe that further modernisation of the electoral registration system could help to identify and prevent fraud, for example by showing the extent of double registrations and making the detection of double voting easier.

By taking a proactive and robust approach that prevents incidents of electoral fraud and enables robust action when it happens, we aim to deter and minimise its incidence.

Our work between 2018/19 and 2022/23 will include activity to:

  • Develop and implement a strategy for the delivery of modern, accessible and sustainable guidance for the electoral community. This project will make full use of available technology and include extensive consultation to ensure we meet the needs of our users
  • Strengthen our relationships and improve engagement with EROs and ROs to ensure that we can both support and challenge them effectively where needed, including through our performance standards frameworks
  • Identify good practice in the delivery of electoral registration and elections, and develop mechanisms to share this good practice on a continuous basis. We will work closely on this with the Association of Electoral Administrators, Scottish Assessors Association and others in the electoral community
  • Encourage and enable new approaches towards preventing and detecting electoral fraud so voters can be confident fraud is deterred and detected. This will involve using our research and data insights, and working with stakeholders to review and further strengthen policies and practices
  • Work specifically with the UK Government and other partners to support the implementation of policy changes following Sir Eric Pickles’ electoral fraud review. This will include planning to evaluate any electoral integrity pilot schemes at elections

Goal 2: To ensure an increasingly trusted and transparent system of regulation in political finance, overseeing compliance, promoting understanding amongst those regulated and proactively pursuing breaches.

This goal captures our regulatory role, and is vital to ensuring the transparency which sits at the heart of any healthy democracy. Our business delivery work in this area is already wide-ranging, and we're taking steps through our project work to become increasingly proactive in the way we regulate, through real time intervention and engagement. The two key areas are:

Ensuring transparency

Voters should be able to see and understand clearly how political parties and other campaigners are funded, and what they spend on campaigning. This includes ensuring that digital campaigning is regulated effectively, with any required changes to the law recommended to governments and UK legislatures. More broadly, we deliver transparency by publishing information about donations and loans, annual accounts from registered parties, and campaign spending which parties and others are required to report to us.

We also register political parties and other campaigners, and maintain an online database of registered political parties and other campaigners. We will be increasingly robust in ensuring that new registrations meet the statutory requirements and that all registrations remain compliant to stay on the registers.

In 2017, we made the case for transparency about donations to political parties in Northern Ireland. Following the laying of The Transparency Order 2018, we'll work with parties, MPs and MLAs in Northern Ireland to ensure clarity about the order and its implications.

Once it comes into force, we'll start publishing information about Northern Ireland donations and loans in line with the rest of the UK, enabling voters to have access to information about political funding in Northern Ireland.

Good regulation

We'll continue to provide high-quality advice and guidance to support parties, candidates and campaigners in complying with the rules. Alongside this, we'll also continue to take action, and — where appropriate — impose sanctions when the rules are broken, in accordance with the statutory Commission Enforcement Policy.

We'll also continue to improve our compliance monitoring, working towards real-time monitoring where we can intervene as soon as an issue is identified. We'll continue to publish promptly all outcomes of investigations.

As the statutory regulator of political finance, we'll continue to be proactive in taking forward significant investigations where the rules may have been breached. We work closely with police and prosecutor bodies in the UK, as well as other regulators.

Whilst we have appropriate investigatory powers, we have recommended that our role should be extended into regulating candidate expenditure, and that the level of penalties we can impose should be significantly increased to ensure an effective deterrent.

Our work between 2018/19 and 2022/23 will include activity to:

  • Improve the usability and efficiency of our current database, Political Finance and Regulation Online, with the aim of increasing usage of the site from the public and political parties. Having completed a thorough review of the system, we will re-develop and launch the site over the course of this five year plan
  • Build the case for changes to legislation to improve confidence and transparency in political finance regulation, including relating to digital campaigning. We'll make the case for improvements to the regulatory controls, and develop a proposal for higher and more proportionate sanctions
  • Reinforce our regulatory role by creating new regulations and Codes of Practice, where we have the powers to do so, with the aim of increasing transparency and clarifying what is required of political parties and others
  • Continue to improve registration and oversight of political parties and campaigners through a more pro-active approach. We'll complete a review of all descriptions on the register of political parties and expand our proactive reviews of parties’ financial procedures.
  • Improve our regulatory casework to ensure robust outcomes with a high impact on compliance, not least by using our full range of statutory investigation and sanctioning powers as appropriate
  • Review and assess the impact of new powers we might exercise, and consult on a prosecution policy leading to and governing a level of appropriate prosecutions work

Goal 3: To be an independent and respected centre of expertise, using knowledge and insight to further the transparency, fairness and efficiency of our democratic system, and help adapt it to the digital age.

This goal responds to an appetite which came through clearly in our Strategic Review for us to take on a more leading role in guiding the sector through the challenges it faces.

This is a developing area of activity. For example, after seeing a rise in digital campaigning, we're conducting enquiries into how such campaigning has been used in recent electoral events to learn lessons for future regulation and build voter confidence that the rules are followed by parties and campaigners.

We'll build on existing recommendations to improve transparency, such as requiring imprints on online campaign material, to lead the debate on ways to ensure digital campaigning is fairly and effectively regulated.

Strengthening our evidence base and use of this evidence

To support us in achieving this goal, a key business delivery area is to use research, analysis and insight to shed light on challenges and opportunities within our democratic system. As part of this, we'll continue to undertake research and report on the accuracy and completeness of the UK’s electoral registers.

We will also monitor changes to the system of electoral registration and use post-election opinion surveys and our annual UK-wide survey to monitor the public’s view on electoral issues and their experiences when taking part in elections. This data informs our decisions and policy recommendations, helps us to influence developments in legislation, policy and practice, and supports us in ensuring we are getting right what matters most to voters.

We will also continue to scrutinise new electoral legislation and provide expert briefings to Governments, Parliaments and Assemblies on legislative proposals. Specifically, we will work with the UK Law Commissions and government officials on the implementation of electoral law reform.

Our project work between 2018/19 and 2022/23 will include activity to:

  • Understand the needs and expectations of voters, and how registering and voting could be modernised to address them. This work will involve research and policy analysis work looking at digital and other practical solutions, drawing on international experience and experience from the modernisation of other public services in the UK. Our work in this area will also continue to assess the risks of hacking and other forms of digital manipulation which could undermine confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes
  • Assess the interventions that drive engagement in voting to understand how participation in democracy could be improved. This will involve working and consulting with stakeholders, including other Electoral Commissions and bodies overseas, to understand what others are doing to encourage participation and to identify opportunities
  • Identify and evaluate evidence about new approaches to improve the delivery of electoral registration, including through evaluations of the UK Government’s pilot schemes on the annual canvass

Goal 4: To provide value for money, making best use of our resources and expertise to deliver services that are attuned to what matters most to voters.

Key to our success over the next five years and beyond is ensuring we have the right services in place to support the delivery of this ambitious plan. This underpinning goal provides a focus to activities that support the organisation and ensure we have the appropriate skilled people and resources, and that the delivery of services is efficient, effective and economical.

Supporting the organisation

This includes providing consistently high-quality HR, finance, planning, legal, support and ICT functions. We'll develop our People Strategy, which sets out the activities we will undertake to support the delivery of our Corporate Plan, and ensure we promote a culture where staff members are able to perform their roles effectively.

As the external demand for improved technology increases, we'll ensure we have a programme of work to keep up to date with new software and systems. We'll also manage our resources efficiently to ensure we can continue to deliver services that meet the needs of our stakeholders and provide value for money.

As we respond to the changing expectations of voters and respond to the changing political environment, a challenge for us and our staff is to ensure we have a mix of the right skills, knowledge and capability within our resources.

For example, in responding to the changing nature of campaigning, it is vital we can recruit and attract the right skills required to ensure we continue to successfully respond to emerging challenges.

Our work between 2018/19 and 2022/23 will include activity to:

  • Implement our accommodation strategy. This will support the organisation in setting out a plan for the future and ensuring we have a flexible working environment to support the delivery of effective and efficient work. This will lay the foundations to prepare the organisation for the likely need to secure new accommodation after 2020
  • Complete upgrades to our Finance and HR systems. This will provide us with a better view of how we are using our resources and promote stronger collaboration between teams
  • Understand the benefits that could be derived from making more effective use of digital technology. We will consider implementing a new e-procurement system and e-board paper system to make better use of our time and achieve savings in the ways we buy in goods and services
  • Carry out a programme of work to improve the ways in which we manage and share information and knowledge and investigate better ways of making our data available for re-use by others, and increasing transparency for voters

Who we are