Campaign spending: Political parties and non-party campaigners

Overview

Before elections and referendums, there is a regulated period for the campaign that puts a limit on spending.

Elections

Spending limits during election campaigns apply to:

  • candidates
  • political parties
  • non-party campaigners

These limits vary for different elections.

Political parties have to:

  • record what they spend during the election campaign
  • report their spending to us in a spending return

Non-party campaigners have to register with us if they plan to spend over a certain amount during the campaign. These amounts are:

  • £20,000 in England
  • £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

Once non-party campaigners have registered with us, they have to record their spending, and report it to us.
 

Referendums

We regulate referendums that are taking place under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA referendums). We don’t regulate other types, such as local government referendums.

Campaigners can spend up to £10,000 in a PPERA referendum without registering with us. 

If campaigners want to spend more than £10,000, they have to register with us and follow the rules on campaign spending. Campaigners have to:

  • follow spend limits
  • decide if they can accept donations based on who they’re from
  • record what they spend during the referendum campaign

After the referendum, registered campaigners have to report their spending to us in a spending return.

Lead campaign group

Registered campaigners in a referendum can apply to become the lead campaign group for one side of the debate. This is also known as being the designated organisation.

Lead campaign groups:

  • have a higher spending limit than other registered campaigners
  • get funding to send information to voters
  • can be involved in referendum campaign broadcasts
  • can use certain public rooms for free
  • receive a grant from us

Campaign spending at past elections and referendums

We publish all of the information we receive on Political Finance Online, so you can see what political parties, campaigners and other groups are doing.

Last updated: 17 April 2020
Next review: 10 July 2020