Election purdah: expect LOTS of good news and promises next week!

Purdah for the local county council elections (and possibly a General Election if rumours are to be believed) will begin on Monday 27 March 2017. Be aware NO council (not just the county council) can ignore purdah.

You can find a useful guide here:

http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/6869714/L15-91+Unpacking+Purdah_04.pdf/c80978b9-dc0b-4eee-9f81-49bd47afeb2d

From this guide:

“This means that:

• In general you (this means councils and councillors) should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters (an exception being situations covered by legislation or regulations directing publication of information for explanatory purposes).
• Particular care should be taken during the pre-election period to abide by the Act.
• Consider suspending the hosting of third party material or closing public forums if these are likely to breach the codes of practice.
• Do not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views on proposals in a way which identifies them with individual councillors or groups of councillors.
• Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published unless expressly authorised by statute.
• You are allowed to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

Although this new code supersedes the previous versions and may seem less specific, in practice your conduct should be similar to previous elections.
What this means in practice:

Publicity is deemed as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.”

The first question to ask is ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test. When making your decision, you should consider the following:

You should not:
• produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial
• make references to individual politicians or groups in press releases
arrange proactive media or events involving candidates
• issue photographs which include candidates
• supply council photographs or other materials to councillors or political group staff unless you have verified that they will not be used for campaigning purposes
• continue hosting third party blogs or e-communications
• help with national political visits (as this would involve using public money to support a particular candidate or party). These should be organised by political parties with no cost or resource implications for the council.

You should also think carefully before you:
• Continue to run campaign material to support your own local campaigns. If the campaign is already running and is non-controversial (for example, on issues like recycling or foster care) and would be a waste of public money to cancel or postpone them, then continue. However, you should always think carefully if a campaign could be deemed likely to influence the outcome of the election and you should not use councillors in press releases and events in pre-election periods. In such cases you should stop or defer them. An example might be a campaign on an issue which has been subject of local political debate and/or disagreement.
• Launch any new consultations. Unless it is a statutory duty, don’t start any new consultations or publish report Findings from consultation exercises, which could be politically sensitive.

and

Council Notice Boards:

Councils are required to publicise details of the election and how to register to vote. Material relating to wider political issues should not be posted on of official notice boards which may be seen by members of the public. This includes publicity issued by, or on behalf of, a trade union.”

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