WCVA’s Policy Officer David Cook shares some points for voluntary organisations to consider in the run up to this year’s Senedd election on 6 May.
The outcome of the next Senedd election will have a big impact on the beneficiaries of many voluntary sector organisations. This means that many organisations want to take this opportunity to speak to candidates and political parties about the issues that matter to them. This blog highlights some top tips to help charities and community groups do just that, while staying within the rules around campaigning during election periods.
CAMPAIGNING IN GENERAL
The Charity Commission has advice for charities who wish to campaign on matters which are important to them and their beneficiaries. You should read this carefully if you are likely to undertaking political campaigning. However, it is important to note that these rules require your campaigning to be related to your charitable purposes and to be politically neutral.
These rules are also in force during an election period, however, there are other requirements which will be necessary for you to consider.
CAMPAIGNING DURING THE 2021 ELECTIONS
We have now entered the period of the run-up to the 2021 Senedd Elections, with political campaigns starting in earnest. This is a tricky time for campaigning organisations. There are a number of regulations governing what activity can and can’t take place. Here are some useful tips to navigating the campaign period successfully.
Be familiar with official guidance
This blog is only an overview of the regulations surrounding campaigning in this period. The Charity Commission guidance is clear on how you can campaign on issues important to your charity, whilst also ensuring your charity remains independent of politics. The Electoral Commission’s guidance also outlines what you can and can’t do.
Watch your spending
If you plan to spend over £10,000 on campaigning across this period (including around the Police and Crime Commissioner elections) you must be registered with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner.
You cannot spend more than £30,000.
Plan your campaigning carefully
There are rules about which activity is regulated by the Commission. Spending will be regulated if intended activity passes either of the Commission’s two tests – the Purpose Test and the Public Test.
The Purpose Test
This applies to
- press conferences or other media events
- transport in connection with publicising your campaign
Regulation will apply to spending that might influence people to vote for or against:
- one or more political parties
- political parties or candidates that support or do not support particular policies or issues
- categories of candidates (for example, those in a certain age group)
The Public Test
Even if they meet the Purpose Test, the following activities will only be regulated activity if they also meet the Public Test – that is, if the activity is aimed at, seen, or heard by, or involves the public, or a section of the public:
- election material – leaflets, adverts, websites
- canvassing and market research
- public rallies or public events
Your organisations’ members and ‘committed supporters’ are not considered part of the public in this instance.
Keep your Board involved
Do remember that your organisation’s Board should be kept involved about any campaigning decisions you make during this period. They may be able to advise you too!
Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you want further information, although please note that WCVA cannot offer legal advice.