Police and Crime Commissioner & Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales media handbook

What elections are taking place?

Police and Crime Commissioner elections are taking place in 38 police force areas covering England and Wales.  

  • The Police and Crime Commissioner is elected to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing and aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area. 
  • The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is also responsible for fire and rescue governance, including delivering an efficient fire and rescue service, as well as setting fire and rescue objectives for the area. 

These elections are taking place alongside local government, local authority mayoral and combined authority mayor elections in England. The handbook for the local government elections can be accessed on our website

Each police area has a police area returning officer (PARO) who has overall responsibility for the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), or in the relevant area, the election of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC).

Election timetable

EventDate (deadline if not midnight)
Publication of notice of electionNot later than Tuesday 26 March
Deadline for delivery of nomination papers4pm on Friday 5 April
Deadline to publish candidate listNot later than 4pm on Monday 8 April
Deadline to apply to register to vote 11.59pm Tuesday 16 April
Deadline to apply to vote by post, postal proxy applications, and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes5pm on Wednesday 17 April
Deadline for new proxy vote applications5pm on Wednesday 24 April
Deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate 5pm on Wednesday 24 April
Publication of notice of poll Not later than Wednesday 24 April
Polling day7am to 10pm on Thursday 2 May
Deadline to apply for a replacement for spoilt or lost postal votes5pm on Thursday 2 May
Deadline for emergency proxy applications5pm on Thursday 2 May

Candidates

Anyone who wants to become a candidate at a PCC (or PFCC) election in England and Wales must be:

  • at least 18 years old on the day of the candidate’s nomination 
  • a British or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of a European Union country 
  • registered as a local government elector in a local council area that is within the police area in which they wish to stand, both at the time of the nomination and on polling day 

The Electoral Commission’s guidance for candidates contains information on what disqualifies someone from standing to be a PCC (or PFCC) candidate and includes the following. 

  • Nomination as a candidate at a combined authority mayoral election on the same day where the mayor would exercise the functions of a PCC (or PFCC) in relation to that area, for example, in Manchester.
  • Conviction for an imprisonable offence. This disqualification applies even if the candidate was not imprisoned for that offence, or the conviction has been spent.
  • Direct or indirect employment by the police.  

For a person to be nominated as a candidate at a Police and Crime Commissioner election, they need to submit a completed set of nomination papers, to the place fixed by the Police Area Returning Officer (PARO), by 4pm on Friday 5 April 2024.  

A person wishing to become a candidate at a PCC (or PFCC) election needs to submit:

  • the nomination form 
  • the home address form
  • the consent to nomination

Alongside this, they need to:

  • Lodge a deposit of £5,000 with the PARO by 4pm on Friday 5 April 2024. The deposit will be returned if you poll more than 5% of the total number of valid votes cast in the police area.
  • Each nomination form needs to be signed (subscribed) by the 100 electors who are on the local government electoral register for a local authority in the police area. They must be of voting age by polling day and be on the register that is in force on the last day for publication of notice of election.  

The earliest date a person can officially become a candidate is the last date for publication of the notice of election, which will be Tuesday 26 March 2024. If a person’s intention to stand has not been announced by this date, they will officially become a candidate on the earlier of:

  • the date their intention to stand is announced, or
  • the date when they are nominated 

This must be prior to the close of nominations, which is 4pm on Friday 5 April 2024.
 

The PARO will publish a statement of persons nominated for the police area by 4pm on Monday 8 April 2024.

After the close of nominations, the PARO will establish whether or not there is a need to hold a poll. If there is one candidate standing after the close of nominations, there will not be an election in that area and the candidate will be declared a Police and Crime Commissioner. 

If there is more than one validly nominated candidate standing in the police area after the deadline for withdrawals, a poll will be held.

Campaigning at the election

Candidates can start campaigning at any time. They do not have to wait until they are validly nominated to declare that they will run for election, ask people to support them or publish campaign material. 

Election spending limits apply from the day after a person officially becomes a candidate. 

As at all elections, it is illegal to make a false statement about the personal character of a candidate in order to influence the result of the election. Rules about defamation also apply to election materials.

The police may investigate allegations of the specific electoral offence of making a false statement. Defamation issues are a matter for the civil courts.

As with all elections, the Electoral Commission does not have a regulatory role in relation to the content of campaign material or what candidates say about each other, though we encourage all campaigners to undertake their vital role responsibly and to support campaign transparency.

By law, candidates, parties and non-party campaigners must use ‘imprints’ on all their printed campaign material. An imprint includes the name and address of the printer and promoter (the person who authorised the material to be printed). It must be included on all printed material such as posters, placards and leaflets. This is so that voters can be clear about the source of the campaign material. It is an offence not to include an imprint on printed election material.

The UK Government's Elections Act 2022 introduced a legal requirement to place an imprint on all paid digital political adverts and some other digital campaign materials (e.g. websites, emails and social media platforms).  

For more information, please see our guidance on print and digital imprints
 

Once someone becomes a candidate, they are entitled to receive, free of charge, a copy of the full electoral register and the lists of people voting by post or proxy (the absent voters’ lists) for the whole of the police area that they are contesting.

Candidates may only use the full electoral register to help them complete their nomination form, to campaign and to check that donations they receive come from a permissible source. 

Candidates must not release any details that appear in the electoral register only (and not on the open register which is available for general sale).
 

Spending limits and rules on accepting donations

Regulated Period

The regulated period for the 2024 Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales begins the day after someone officially becomes a candidate and ends on polling day, 2 May 2024. 

The earliest date someone can officially become a candidate is the last date for publication of the notice of election, which is Tuesday 26 March 2024, and can be no later than the close of nominations (4pm Friday 5 April 2024). 

Spending

During the regulated period, candidates must spend no more than the prescribed spending limit, this is a maximum amount based on the police area in which the candidate is standing.

The limits for each area can be found in the Commission’s Guidance on spending and donations for Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales.

Candidate spending includes the costs of:

  • advertising of any kind, such as posters, newspaper adverts, websites or social media. This does not include spending on preparing and publishing the official election address that candidates can place on the Cabinet Office website 
  • unsolicited material sent to voters, such as letters, leaflets or emails that are not sent in response to specific queries
  • transport costs, such as hire cars or public transport for the candidate or candidate’s campaigners
  • public meetings
  • staff costs, such as an agent’s salary, or staff seconded to a candidate

Further information on which activities count towards the spending limit can be found in our guidance for candidates and agents.
 

It is the responsibility of the candidate’s agent (or the candidate, if they act as their own agent) to fully and accurately report spending. Both the candidate and the agent should ensure they understand the rules and that all spending is properly authorised, recorded and reported. Both the candidate and the agent must make a declaration that their reporting is accurate, making this statement falsely is an offence.  

Organisations or individuals, who are not standing as candidates at the elections, but are campaigning for or against a candidate in the police area are known as local non-party campaigners. 

They can spend up to a certain amount in each police area on campaigning for or against the candidate. Each police area has its own spending limit, which can be found in our guidance on spending and donations in these elections.  

Donations

A donation is money, goods, property or services which are given towards a candidate’s spending, without charge or on non-commercial terms, and have a value of over £50. This includes: 

  • a gift of money or other property propriety 
  • someone paying an invoice for candidate spending that would otherwise be paid by the candidate
  • sponsorship of an event or publication

Anything with a value of £50 or less does not count as a donation. 

Candidates must ensure that any donation worth more than £50 is only accepted if it is from a permissible source. This applies to cash donations and donations in kind. 
Donations that are not from a permissible source must be returned to the donor within 30 days. After that, the donation may be forfeited.

Permissible donors in Great Britain are defined as:

  • an individual on a UK electoral register, including overseas electors
  • a GB registered political party
  • a UK registered company which is incorporated in the UK and carries on business in the UK
  • a UK registered trade union
  • a UK registered building society
  • a UK registered limited liability partnership that carries on business in the UK
  • a UK registered friendly society
  • a UK based unincorporated association that carries on business or other activity wholly or mainly in the UK and has its main office in the UK

Many political parties run a local ‘fighting fund’ for their candidate. If the fund is managed and controlled by the party and not the candidate, then donations to the fund are usually treated as having been made to the party and the agent does not need to report them as donations to the candidate, unless the donations are specially made towards the candidate’s election campaign.

However, candidates will need to report donations from the party that are made for the purpose of meeting their campaign spending.

Reporting

Details of the candidate’s spending and donations must be reported to the PARO together with declarations from the agent and candidate confirming the return is complete and correct no later than 70 days after the election result is declared. 

If no spending is incurred, a nil return must be submitted by the candidate (or their agent).

Voters

A person can vote in the 2 May 2024 elections if they are registered to vote. 

A person can register to vote if they are:

  • aged 18 or over on polling day
  • a British citizen
  • an Irish, EU or qualifying Commonwealth citizen

Voters can go online to apply to register at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. People can still apply by completing a paper registration form if they prefer.

They can contact their local electoral registration office for forms or download them on the UK Government’s website.

The deadline to apply to register is midnight Tuesday 16 April 2024. 

The deadline for applying for a postal vote is 5pm, Wednesday 17 April 2024.

The deadline for applying for a proxy vote, except in an emergency, is 5pm, Wednesday 24 April 2021.    

The deadline for applying for a proxy vote as a result of an emergency is 5pm, Thursday 2 May 2024.

Voter ID

Voters across England and Wales will be required to bring photo ID to vote in person at these elections, following new requirements introduced by the Elections Act. A form of free ID, the Voter Authority Certificate, is available for those who do not have another type of accepted ID.

If voters lose their existing form of ID, or if it is stolen or damaged and the deadline to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate has passed, people will be able to appoint an emergency proxy to vote on their behalf up until 5pm on polling day.

Voters who are registered to vote anonymously but wish to vote in person must have an Anonymous Elector's Document in order to vote.

Voters in Wales do not need to show ID to vote in Senedd or local government elections.

Accepted forms of ID at polling stations include a UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Commonwealth passport; a UK or EEA drivers’ licence; and some concessionary travel passes, such as an older person’s bus pass or an Oyster 60+ card. The full list is available here. Voters will be able to use expired ID if they are still recognisable from the photo.

Those that do not have an accepted form can apply for free voter ID.

Anyone without an accepted form of ID can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate at voter-authority-certificate.service.gov.uk, or by requesting a paper form from their local council. 

Anyone who needs to apply for free ID, in order to vote in the May 2024 elections, must do so before 5pm on 24 April.  

The voting process

All polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm.

Any voter who arrives at their polling station before 10pm and is in a queue waiting to vote at 10pm will be able to vote.

Following changes introduced by the Elections Act, the first past the post system is used for PCC (or PFCC) elections, replacing the Supplementary Vote system used previously.  

  • Voters can choose from a list of candidates on the ballot paper. A voter should simply put an X (a cross) next to the one candidate that they wish to vote for. The ballot paper will indicate how many candidates the voter may chose. 
  • Under this system, the candidate with the most votes is elected. 
  • In the event of a tie, then a candidate is selected by the drawing of lots (i.e., a method of selection by chance such as tossing a coin or picking a name out of a hat). 

Registered voters can visit their local polling station between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 2 May to cast their votes. Voters should arrive in plenty of time to avoid missing out on having their say.

Any voter who is in a queue at their polling station waiting to vote at 10pm will be able to vote.
Voters will need to bring an accepted form of ID in order to vote.  

  • Before polling day, voters will be sent a poll card which includes details of where their polling station is. Voters do not need to take their poll card with them to the polling station but doing so will speed up the process
  • Voters can only vote at the polling station specified on this card
  • Polling station staff will be on hand to explain the ballot paper(s) and how to vote

Anonymous voters must bring their poll card to the polling station, in addition to their Anonymous Elector’s document.  

The law relating to obtaining information in polling stations and disclosing such information is complex, but we advise against taking selfies or other photos in the polling station, given the risks that this may be in breach of the law.

When a voter arrives at a polling station, a member of staff will: 

  • Ask their name and address so they can find them on the electoral register 
  • Ask for their photo ID, and check if it is acceptable 
  • If their ID is acceptable, they will give them their ballot paper and direct them to complete it at a polling booth as usual  

If voters do not wish, or are unable, to go to a polling station, they may apply for a postal vote. They need to complete and sign a postal vote application form and return it to their local electoral registration office by 5pm on Wednesday 17 April. Alternatively, they can apply online.

Applications for a postal vote are required to include the applicants National Insurance number as well as their date of birth and signature. These are used to confirm the applicant’s identity.  

There are also now restrictions on who can handle postal voting documents. This includes returning them to a polling station or to the relevant returning officer. At May, voters will not be allowed to hand in more than five postal ballot packs per poll, in addition to their own. Anyone handing in postal votes to the polling station or the relevant returning officer will be required to complete a postal vote return form.  

Voters who can’t, or don’t want, to vote in a polling station can apply for a proxy vote. This means they ask someone they trust to vote on their behalf. They need to complete and sign a proxy application form and return it to their local electoral registration office by 5pm on Wednesday 24 April. 

Alternatively, they can apply online for some types of proxy vote. The person voting on their behalf (their proxy) will need to show an accepted form of ID at the polling station before they can vote.  

Changes from the Elections Act mean that voters can now act as a proxy for a maximum of only four people, only two of those can be people living in the UK.  

The Commission provides guidance to polling station staff, to help them make sure that polling stations are accessible to everyone.  

Changes introduced in the Elections Act permit disabled voters to choose anyone who is over 18 to accompany them in the polling station to help them vote. The Act also changes the assistance available at polling stations.  

We consulted charities and electoral administrators, before updating our accessibility guidance for administrators, to make sure that disabled voters can access the service they are entitled to in polling stations. Our guidance aims to support returning officers to understand and identify the barriers to voting faced by disabled voters. It sets out the equipment that should be made available as a minimum at the polling station, and what other equipment or support may also be helpful to provide. This should include measures such as a tactile voting device, polling booth at wheelchair level, magnifiers and pencil grips. Returning officers must have regard to this guidance. 

The count and declaration of results

The local returning officer has responsibility for the counting of the votes in their voting area. PARO’s may decide to hold counts at a central location or locally in the constituent authority areas.  

Local returning officers will ensure presiding officers transport ballot boxes from polling stations to the count venue in a secure and timely manner, and that those recruited to count ballot papers have been well trained in how to carry out their duties.

Local returning officers will inform the PARO of the local total for their voting area. The PARO will check and approve local totals and collate the results of all voting areas in the Police area. Once approved the local returning officer will be able to give public notice of the local total. 

Once the result calculation is complete the PARO will then declare the results for the whole Police area.

The relevant local authority will be able to provide projected count times for local totals.

The PARO will be able to provide a projected time for the declaration. 

The outcome of a PCC (or PFCC) election can be challenged through an election petition, which can only be issued by:

  • someone claiming to have been a candidate at the election
  • at least four electors (not anonymously registered electors) who had a right to vote at the election 

A petition at a PCC (or PFCC) election must normally be presented within 21 calendar days after the day on which the election was held. Further time may be allowed in certain circumstances. 
 

Roles and responsibilities at the poll

Each police area has a police area returning officer (PARO) who has overall responsibility for the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), or in the relevant area, the election of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC).

The PARO is responsible for:

•    the nomination process
•    calculating and declaring the result of the election 
•    liaising with and coordinating the work of Local Returning Officers in their police area
•    giving directions to Local Returning Officers relating to the discharge of their functions at the election

Where the poll at a PCC (or PFCC) election is combined with the poll at local government elections in England, the local Returning Officer (RO) will be responsible for the conduct of the poll for the local government election and that part of the PCC (or PFCC) election that is included within their local authority area.

Where the poll at the PCC (or PFCC) election is not combined with any other poll, the local returning officer (LRO) will be responsible for the conduct of the poll for the PCC election in their voting area. 

At a Police and Crime Commissioner election, an LRO is appointed for each voting area within the police area. The LRO for the Police and Crime Commissioner election is the person who acts as Returning Officer for local elections in that area and is normally senior officer of the local authority. 

Electoral registration officers (or EROs) are responsible for the preparation and maintenance of the electoral registers and list of absent voters within their area. They must ensure that the electoral registers are as accurate and complete as possible.

Presiding officers are appointed by relevant returning officers to run polling stations. Duties include organising the layout of the polling station, supervising poll clerks, issuing ballot papers, assisting voters, accounting for all ballot papers and ensuring that ballot boxes are transported securely to the count venue.

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. Our role in elections is to:  

  • produce guidance for ROs and EROs, set performance standards and report on how electoral administrators perform against these standards  
  • produce guidance for candidates standing for election and their agents  
  • produce guidance for parties that are campaigning at the election  
  • produce guidance for non-party campaigners that are campaigning at the election  
  • register political parties and non-party campaigners 
  • raise public awareness of the elections and how to take part in them 
  • report on the conduct of the elections   
  • publish details of where political parties get their money from and how they spend it
     

Page history

First published: 11 March 2024

Last updated: 14 March 2024