Process for registering a political party

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1 1 Situations and procedures Process for registering a political party This document is for people who are thinking about registering a political party or changing their registered political party s details and want to know more about the application and registration process Contents: Introduction to the Commission Stages of registering a party Completing and sending an application Choosing a name, descriptions and emblems

2 1 Translations and other formats For information on obtaining this publication in another language or in a large-print or Braille version please contact the Electoral Commission: Tel: Terms and expressions we use We use must when we refer to a specific legal or regulatory requirement. We use should for items we consider to be minimum good practice, but which are not legal requirements. You do not have to follow this guidance, but if you do, you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Our approach to enforcement The Commission regulates political funding and spending. We are committed to providing those we regulate with a clear understanding of their regulatory obligations through our guidance documents and advice service. Wherever possible, we use advice and guidance proactively in order to secure compliance. And we regulate in a way that is effective, proportionate and fair. If you do not comply with legal or regulatory requirements you or your organisation may be subject to civil or criminal sanctions. You can find more information about the Commission s approach to enforcement at

3 2 Process for registering a political party Who this document is for: People who are thinking about setting up a registered political party and want to know more about the application and registration process. This document covers Introduction to the Electoral Commission Setting up a political party Stages of registering a political party Completing your application Choosing a party name, descriptions and emblems Submitting your party application Our assessment of your application After registration Objecting to our decision Related documents: Introduction to registering a political party Overview of maintaining a party details Overview of party names, descriptions and emblems PEF Online: Getting started Introduction to being a party treasurer Process for registering a political party

4 3 Summary Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), we are responsible for the registration of parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. When political parties register with the Electoral Commission, their registered identity marks (names, descriptions and emblems) can appear on ballot papers at an election. Registered parties are also subject to a number of obligations to ensure the integrity and transparency of party political finance. This document explains the application and registration process to register your party.

5 4 This flow chart gives an overview of a successful party registration process You complete your application and submit it to us We receive, check, and acknowledge your application We make your proposed party identity marks (party name, any descriptions and emblems) publicly available online for comment We assess your application for compliance with the legal tests in PPERA We make a decision, to approve or reject, and notify you of the result If approved, we update the publicly available register of political parties with your details If you are a new party we will send you information about your obligations to report donations and loans along with any campaign spending when you stand candidates in elections. Process for registering a political party

6 5 Introduction The Electoral Commission who we are We are an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the democratic process. The Electoral Commission: registers political parties and regulate party compliance under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) maintains the register of political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland sets standards for electoral registration and running elections, and report on how well this is done runs any referendums held under PPERA publishes details of where parties and other election campaigners get money from and how they spend it makes sure people understand and follow the rules on party and election finance makes sure people understand it is important to register to vote, and know how to vote Setting up a political party If you are thinking of setting up a political party, you may need to register with us and follow the rules. Registering a political party brings legal obligations. It is a serious commitment and you should think carefully about the responsibilities you will be taking on. Before you make any decisions about registering, we recommend you read our Introduction to registering a party guidance. It will help you decide if you want to register, give information on what you will need to provide and help you decide which register you would like to appear on.

7 6 Once registered your party details will be made publicly available such as the party name, any descriptions and emblems, officer names as well as your headquarters address. This guidance will take you through when and how to register, gives an outline of the basic rules and tells you where you can find more information. Process for registering a political party

8 7 Stages of registering a political party If you want to register, you can make an online application by visiting PEF Online. Alternatively, you can register with us by filling in an application form and posting it to us. We can also accept a scanned copy of the form by . We aim to let you know the result of your application within 30 working days of receiving it. You should read this and other guidance, which you can find on page 1, to ensure that you have an understanding of what you need to do to complete your application. The party registration team is available if you need further help or advice. Our contact details are at the end of this document Completing your application Before you complete your application you will need to think about the following: what elections will the party stand candidates at? where will the party stand candidates (political parties can apply for the Great Britain register, the Northern Ireland register or both)? and, if registered in Great Britain, will the party stand candidates in England, Scotland and Wales? who will be the party officers and what publicly available address will you use as the party s HQ address? does the party have a financial scheme? A registered party has to have one and operate consistent with it. does the party have a constitution? A registered party has to have one and operate consistent with it. what does the party want to be called, or known as?

9 8 What elections does the party wish to stand candidates at? There are two types of political party that can stand for election. These are: registered political parties minor parties Registered political parties Registered political parties can contest all elections including parish, local authority, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament, UK Parliament and European Parliament elections. All parties that intend to stand candidates at a UK Parliamentary general election also have additional pre poll reporting requirements in the run up to the UK Parliamentary general election. If do not intend to stand candidates for the UK Parliamentary general election you can apply to exempt the party from the prepoll reporting requirements by completing a RP6 Declaration of exemption by a registered political party. Minor parties Minor parties are parties that only contest parish council elections (England) and community council elections (Wales). Minor parties are unable to contest elections in Scotland. They are registered on the Great Britain register. There are no minor parties in Northern Ireland. Parish and community council elections In England and Wales parties can choose to only contest parish council elections (England) or community council elections (Wales). If you intend to only contest these elections you should consider registering as a minor party. Under PPERA, minor parties are not subject to the financial controls that registered political parties must comply with. They are only required to submit an annual registration confirmation with us. The information they need to submit when registering with us is much less detailed. Process for registering a political party

10 9 Where will the party stand candidates? As part of your registration you will need to choose what part of the UK your party will stand candidates in and for what elections. If you intend to stand candidates in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain you will need to submit two separate applications to register a political party. Great Britain As part of your application to be entered on the register of political parties in Great Britain you will be asked if you want to stand candidates in England, Scotland and Wales or a combination thereof. Northern Ireland Parties that intend to stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland will need to apply to be entered on the Register of Political Parties in Northern Ireland. What officers roles are needed in a registered political party? Your party must appoint people to certain official roles. These are: a party leader a party treasurer who is responsible for your party s compliance with the financial rules a nominating officer who will use of the party s name, description and emblems on ballot papers. You must have at least two officers for the party. If one person fills all three official roles, you must register someone as an additional officer. The treasurer and nominating officer cannot be the same person unless they are also the leader.

11 10 You are not required to appoint a treasurer if you are registering a minor party. All of your party officers, including any optional officer roles, must sign your application form. Optional officer roles campaign officer who will be responsible for your party s compliance with the financial rules for campaign expenditure instead of the treasurer. They cannot also be the treasurer. additional officers -. You must appoint an additional officer if the party leader is also the treasurer and nominating officer. What officers roles are needed in a minor party? Minor parties are only required to appoint a party leader and nominating officer. You must have at least two people to hold these roles. If one person fills the two official roles, you must register someone as an additional officer. The financial scheme You must include a financial scheme as part of your application. Your financial scheme demonstrates the processes you have in place that will enable your party will comply with the legal requirements of party and election finances under PPERA. Your scheme should include procedures for: accounting records handling donations and loans maintaining your registered details with us authorising and reporting on campaign spending We produce a template scheme that you can use as a base document to create your party s own financial scheme. You do not have to use this scheme, but it includes all the relevant areas you will need to consider. If you have accounting units, Process for registering a political party

12 11 our standard template scheme is not suitable. We can provide you with appropriate schemes, so please call us. Your financial scheme must reflect how the party is run and managed in relation to the above procedures. If these procedures change you may need to update your financial scheme. If you update your financial scheme you must provide an updated copy to us for approval. Party constitution As part of your application, you will need to send us your party s constitution. This will usually cover items such as how your party is organised and how it carries out business. We use your constitution to check if there is anything in it which conflicts with your financial scheme under PPERA. For example, how your accounts are signed off. Your constitution should reflect how your party is run and managed. As a guide your constitution should include: your party s aims and objectives the structure of your party for example, if you have branches how the party is run for example, the frequency of meetings and how decisions are made what officers you have and what their responsibilities are if you have membership requirements Your constitution should be kept up to date and you must provide an updated copy to us whenever you change your constitution. Choosing a party name, descriptions and emblems As part of your registration, you must choose a party name and you may also apply to have party descriptions and an emblem.

13 12 You must choose a party name. You can also register: Up to 12 party descriptions Up to 3 emblems You can choose to change your party name, descriptions and emblems at a later date if you wish for an additional fee of 25. What is a description? A party description is an optional identity mark which, depending on the specific election, can either act as an alternative to the party name or be used in addition to the party name on the ballot paper. What is an emblem? A party emblem is an optional, visual representation (or logo) of a party. Your party and its candidates will be able to choose to use one of your emblems on ballot papers at all elections Checking for similar identity marks Many parties have already registered common words and phrases in their identity marks. Before you submit your proposed name, any descriptions and emblems you should check to see that they are not similar to those already on the register. If your proposed identity marks are likely to result in voters confusing them with those of another registered party we will be unable to register them. What identity marks (names, descriptions and emblems) can t we register? As a guide, we cannot register an identity mark that: is the same as another registered party identity mark and already appears on the same register is likely to result in voters confusing it with another party identity mark that is already registered is an acronym links in any way to online material contains a reference to a person s name unless it is a person directly associated with your party is longer than six words is obscene or offensive Process for registering a political party

14 13 is not in Roman Script is likely to amount to an offence if published contains certain prohibited words is likely to mislead voters as to the effect of their vote is likely to contradict or hinder instructions or guidance given for voting contains reference to online content is, or contains an, acronym that is not well known and widely used and not spelt out You should read our Overview of party names, descriptions and emblems guidance for more detail and explanation on what identity marks can be entered onto the registers of political parties. Providing us with black and white emblems Emblems that appear on the register and ballot papers must be black and white. You must send us a black and white version of your emblem to register. Any emblem that is submitted in colour will be rejected and you will need to resubmit it in black and white. Can you register party identity marks in a language other than English? Yes, you can apply to use a language other than English in your identity marks for use on ballot papers. For example, you may want to register your party identity mark in English and Welsh (for the Great Britain register) or English and Irish (for the Northern Ireland register). In Wales if you have registered your party identity mark in both Welsh and English you can choose to display both on ballot papers. For all other languages the English translation of your party name will appear on the public register, but cannot be used on the ballot paper on its own right. This means that you will be able to choose the most appropriate language for your party s identity mark to appear on ballot papers.

15 14 The proposed identity mark in each language cannot be longer than six words. If you want to register a party identity mark in a language other than English, you must provide an accurate English translation as part of your application. A party identity mark must be in Roman Script, even if it is registered in a language other than English. It is likely to be acceptable if you can use a UK based keyboard to produce the identity mark without using special characters. Please contact us if you are unsure as to what can be accepted. Other details you will be required to provide in your application While making your application you will be required to provide the following: your party details which will be made publicly available such as the party name, any descriptions and emblems, and headquarters address your party officer details and contact information (home addresses are required but not made publicly available) the parts of the UK that you want to registered to contest elections in your accounting unit details, (if you intend to have them). Accounting units can also be known as party branches. You can also tell us if: you do not intend to contest UK general elections, this means that you will be exempt from weekly reporting during a general election period you intend to contest the combined region of the South West and Gibraltar at European Parliamentary elections. This allows you to accept donations and loans from certain sources in Gibraltar during the European Parliamentary campaign. Process for registering a political party

16 15 Submitting your party application If you want to register a party or makes changes to your already registered party, you can make an online application by visiting PEF Online. Alternatively, you can register with us by filling in an application form and posting it to us. We can also accept a scanned copy of the form by . If you have given us all the correct information we need, we aim to let you know the result of your application within 30 working days of receipt. You should submit your application in good time before the election at which you wish to stand candidates. Please contact us if you want to register your party so that you can stand candidates in an election for which the publication of the notice of election is less than 30 working days away. In the lead up to the elections below the Commission will publish on our website a cut-off date for considering applications: local and mayoral elections in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, excluding by-elections Police and Crime Commissioner elections European Parliament elections Greater London Assembly elections National Assembly for Wales Northern Ireland Assembly Scottish Parliament UK Parliament We will guarantee to assess any complete applications to register new parties or change existing party details that we receive by this cut-off date. We will endeavour to assess any applications received after this date but we will not guarantee to do so.

17 16 Applying online To apply online, all of your party officers must have separate accounts. You can apply through our online Party and Election system called PEF online. One advantage of using PEF online when registering is that you can pay electronically when you lodge your application. Also, once you are registered PEF online is also the tool that we recommend that you use to manage your party details and reporting obligations. If you use PEF Online, you will work directly with the database. This means that you can create spending returns and update them on a regular basis before submitting them. You can retrieve and update your existing information in the system. If you want to register online, then please visit PEF online for guidance on how to make an application. Applying by post To apply by post you will need to pay by cheque or money order. The application forms you need to complete will depend on the type of party you want to set up, and where your party wants to be registered. You can only apply to register a joint description by post. Which form will you need if you are applying by post? Type of application Form Registering in Great Britain Registering in Northern Ireland Registering as a minor party (only able to register in Great Britain) Applying to change a party name and emblems Applying to register a joint description Applying to change descriptions RP1GB RP1NI RP1M RP2 RP2JD RP2D Process for registering a political party

18 17 Sending us your new party application Whether by post or online your application will need to include: your completed form (either by post or submitted online) a copy of your party s constitution a copy of your party s financial scheme a non-refundable fee of 150. If you send the payment by cheque please make the payment to us, The Electoral Commission If you send your application by post you also need to include any emblems via to: or in hardcopy format with your application to: Party Registration The Electoral Commission 3 Bunhill Row London EC1Y 8YZ You can change these details once you have registered with us.

19 18 Our assessment of your application Stage 1: We receive, check and acknowledge your application We aim to review whether your application is complete within 4 days of receipt. We will let you know if there is anything missing and what we need from you to proceed. We will check that your application includes: at least two named people to hold the party officer roles or if one person is to fill all three official roles, that someone else is named as an additional officer. a financial scheme which meets the requirements of PPERA a constitution a non-refundable fee of 150 If all this information is included, we will formally acknowledge the application and continue to the next stage of the process where we assess your identity marks to determine if they can be registered. What if there is missing information? If there is anything missing from your application we will contact your party treasurer and ask for the information we need. When verifying any changes to your application we will confirm them with all the party officers. Stage 2: Making your proposed identity marks publicly available for comment Once we have formally acknowledged your application and before we fully assess your application, we will make publicly available your proposed identity marks on our website for Process for registering a political party

20 19 comment. If an identity mark clearly fails one of the statutory tests we would inform you of this and invite you to submit an alternative. This identifier would not be made public. Your party has not been registered at this point. Once online, comments can be made by other interested persons or bodies on your proposed identity marks for 10 working days. We will consider any representations made and take any relevant information into account when making our assessment as to whether your identity marks meet the statutory test. Stage 3: Assessing your application We will assess whether your proposed party name, any descriptions and emblems meet the PPERA tests. All names, descriptions and emblems applied for are assessed by the Commission s internal Approvals Board. Stage 4: Our decision Once we have made a decision, we will tell you whether your application has been successful or not. What happens if we cannot accept your party name? If your party name does not meet the legal requirements we will contact you to try to resolve the issue. See page 12 above or our separate Overview document for full details of the requirements. If you do not submit an alternative name to us within 3 months of being contacted we will not proceed with your application. What happens if we cannot accept your description or emblem? Providing that the rest of your application is correct, we will still register your party. But we will reject the particular description or emblem that does not meet the requirements. If this happens we will let you know, and in these circumstances we will work with you to find an alternative option. You won t have to pay a further registration fee if you submit an alternative to us within 3 months of being contacted.

21 20 If we accept all or some of your application, we will send you information about your obligations to report donations and loans along with any campaign spending when you stand candidates in elections. We will also update the register with your new party s details. If we reject all or some of your application, we will explain the reasons in writing and advise you what you can do next. You can complain about our decision if you do not think the correct processes have been followed in making the decision on your application (see Complaining about our decision below). How long will the registration process take? If you have given us all the correct information we need, we aim to let you know the result of your application within 30 working days. Process for registering a political party

22 21 After registration Once you have registered successfully we will send you information about your obligations as a registered political party. Under PPERA, a registered political party must: make sure all donations and loans over 500 come from mainly UK-based sources report donations and loans every quarter, and report weekly during a general election keep to campaign spending limits at elections, and report campaign spending to us keep accurate accounts and records send us annual accounts if the party s income or expenditure is over 250,000 a year, you must also send an auditor s report Operate consistent with its Constitution and Financial Scheme, and keep them current keep the party s details up to date, and confirm them annually These rules are to ensure the integrity and transparency of party political finance. If you don t follow them, you may be subject to fines or other enforcement action. In some cases, this can include a referral for criminal prosecution. You have significant responsibilities as a political party, so it s important that you understand these fully before you register with us. In addition we also provide guidance to candidates and agents on how to stand for election and their rights and responsibilities. Maintaining and changing your party s details Under PPERA, you must keep your registered details up to date. Every year you will be asked to confirm your registration details in an annual registration confirmation.

23 22 You can also make changes to your details and add or change descriptions and emblems at any time after you have registered. Changes to party names, descriptions and emblems will cost 25. Each time you apply to register a new identifier it will be assessed by the Commission against the statutory tests in PPERA. We aim to let you know the result of an application within 30 working days For more information on maintaining or changing your party details, see Overview of maintaining party details. Process for registering a political party

24 23 Objecting to our decision If we reject your application as a whole, or we refuse a particular identity mark, you can choose to submit an alternative identity mark to us to consider. Our aim is to do what we can to help you register, or if we cannot we will explain the reasons why. If you would like to discuss the reasons for our refusal, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss the decision with you. However, since our decision is taken as part of our statutory duty, you cannot appeal against or object to that decision with us. If you disagree with our decision and the reasons for it you must seek a remedy through the courts by applying for a judicial review of our decision. You could instead see if the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman would be prepared to consider the matter, but would need to first proceed under our complaints process referred to below. If you believe we have not adhered to our own administrative process outlined in the flowchart on page 2 in this guidance in making the decision on your application you can complain to us using our complaints process. This covers: a failure to gather or properly to consider certain information bias in arriving at a decision unreasonable delay You must be explicit about the nature of your complaint, providing evidence where possible, rather than simply making an assertion based on disagreement with the outcome of a decision. Our complaints web-page here has information about how to make a complaint.

25 24 What happens when you complain? Your complaint will be investigated by the Complaints Officer (the Secretary to the Commission Board) and a response sent, usually by the Deputy Chief Executive, within 20 working days. After our review what are my other avenues of complaint If you are not satisfied with our response to your complaint you may, with clear reasons, ask for a review of your complaint by the Chief Executive. Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman The Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman can look into complaints about the Commission where someone believes there has been injustice or hardship because we have not acted properly or fairly or has given a poor service and not put things right. You can find more information about the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman here: Process for registering a political party

26 25 Where can I get further advice? You can view our full range of guidance and up-to-date resources on our website. You can contact us on the phone number below or via on the addresses below. We are here to help, so please get in touch. Call us on or (Welsh Language line). Or England: Scotland: Wales: Northern Ireland: Visit us at We welcome feedback on our guidance just us at:

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