The Electoral Commission has published new guidance to help charities work out what they can spend on lobbying int he run up to the general election
The Electoral Commission has published guidance on the new UK lobbying act to help charities plan their campaigning activity ahead of next year’s general election.
The act, which was passed earlier this year, has been widely criticised by charities and campaign groups who are worried that it will restrict their ability to legitimately campaign in the 12 months leading up to a UK election.
Spending by non-party campaigners in the run-up to certain elections was already regulated.
Non-party campaigners are vital to a healthy democracy and we encourage their active participation - Peter Wardle
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 introduced new rules that expand the existing regime and mean spending on a wider range of campaigning activities that can be seen as intending to influence voters at an election is now regulated.
The new rules take effect from 19 September 2014 and include an increase in the amount campaigners can spend before being required to register and report their spending to the Electoral Commission.
However, there is an overall reduction in the amount they can spend at UK parliamentary general elections, with a spending limit of £9,750 per parliamentary constituency.
There are also new pre and post poll reporting requirements.
Peter Wardle, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, said: “Non-party campaigners are vital to a healthy democracy and we encourage their active participation. Where a significant amount is being spent on campaigning, there are rules that must be followed to ensure that there’s transparency in the system.
“We have produced a comprehensive package of guidance, taking on board what campaigners told us they wanted information on, so that they can plan their activities, know when they need to register with us and ensure they follow the rules.”
The Electoral Commission has published 16 guidance documents as well as fact sheets on how to ensure common campaigning tactics such as pledge cards and manifestos comply with the new rules.
Before producing its guidance the Electoral Commission held roundtable events in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear directly from 50 campaign organisations to help inform its guidance. The Commission also ran a survey to find out what campaigners wanted to see in the guidance – there were over 120 responses.
Guidance documents range from introductions to the rules and how to check and report donations and spending; to information on how joint campaigning and constituency campaigning is regulated.