As a candidate, it’s really important that you understand there are rules governing elections that you MUST follow.
If you don’t follow the rules, you could yourself being disqualified as a candidate before you even get started on your formal campaign. If elected, you could find yourself losing your seat. Worse still, you could even find yourself being charged with a criminal offence.
Some of the most important rules you need to focus on as early as you can, are those concerning your election expenses.
The basic rules:
All candidates are entitled to spend the same amount on their election campaign.
You can spend less than the allocated spend for your election if you wish. But you cannot spend more, as this would give you an unfair advantage in a democratic process.
You (or your election agent) MUST submit a signed declaration of your election expenditure after the election has taken place. The information you provide must be accurate to the best of your knowledge and understanding.
As an Independent, whatever you spend on an election campaign must be provided by you or by your supporters.
There is currently no public funding available for election campaigns in the UK of any kind.
If you have no formal organisation supporting you, it is essential that you keep a record of where any money or goods/services in kind you have received has come from, along with the financial value of what was received.
How much you can spend:
The key information you will need about how much you can spend on your election campaign should be contained within the candidate pack you will receive from the Democratic or Electoral Services Department. However, the Democratic or Electoral Services Department will answer questions for you concerning election finances when information is available.
If you are not provided with the figure for your specific maximum election spend by the Democratic Services Department, you will need two figures to calculate what you can spend in total on your election campaign.
- The total number of voters in the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Electorate]
- The allowance or allocation per voter for the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Allocation]
The total number of voters will be available from the Electoral Roll and can be checked with the Democratic Services Department.
The Allocation figure – per voter, should be in your candidate pack.
The calculation for your maximum election spend can be made as follows:
Electorate x Allocation = Maximum Election Spend
For example, in a Ward with an Electorate or total of 2149 people registered to vote, where the spend or Allocation per voter is 39p (£0.39), the Maximum Election Spend would be £838.11 (Eight Hundred and Thirty Eight Pounds and Eleven Pence)
The calculation would be as follows:
2149 x 0.39 = 838.11
The Allocation per voter will probably sound small when you first see it and will almost certainly be in a multiple of Pence. But when you calculate your budget in this way, it will begin to make a lot more sense.
What you can spend your budget on:
This is where you need to be really careful. Anything you spend on your campaign – either directly OR indirectly, is likely to be considered as an election expense.
This means that if you have 5 volunteers helping you during the campaign and after canvassing one day you all go to the pub and you buy them lunch, the value of the bill you pay might be considered as an election expense.
What you should spend your budget on will be things like:
- Printer Cartridges
- Design & Artistic Work (If you cannot do it yourself or find a volunteer to assist)
- Phone calls
- Loud hailer or megaphone hire
You will need to be frugal and buy only what you need. Anything purchased specifically for the election must be accounted for – even if you do not use it or need it. Make sure you buy the minimum number of extra items possible to allow for mistakes, damage and wastage and no more.
You do not have to account for the time of volunteers, no matter what they do for you, as long as they have not been paid by you, or by someone else on behalf of you – even if that payment was offered by a third party as a gift.
Ideally, your expenditure should be for goods and services ONLY. Otherwise, things will get messy and probably expensive very quickly. Your budget won’t go that far!
- You only have to stick to the rules on Election Expenses during the formal Election Period.
- Whatever work you have done and whatever you have spent and used BEFORE the Election is formally called will not count against your Election Expenses.
- This is why giving yourself as much time as possible to campaign and develop your presence in the community BEFORE an election is potentially so beneficial.
- You can begin your campaign at any time!
If you are unsure of anything at any stage, ALWAYS give the Democratic or Electoral Services Department a call and preferably obtain the response you need by e-mail.