On 7 November the Charity Commission released updated Campaigning and political activity guidance for charities (CC9). The changes were prompted by the passing of the new Elections Act 2022.
Charities can become involved in campaigning and political activity which further or support their charitable purposes, unless their governing document prohibits it. However, campaigning cannot be the only reason that the charity exists, and a charity cannot be established for political purposes. Charities must not support a particular political party, but may support specific policies. But there is no problem with a poverty charity publicly commenting on government cuts, or a wildlife charity calling for legislation to better protect the natural world.
In an election period, charities can be affected by the Political, Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). Broadly, this Act applies where:
- During a regulated period – i.e. 1 year before a general election;
- A charity spends above the prescribed limit on public-facing activities (very broadly defined); and
- The activities can be reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success at any relevant election for registered parties or candidates.
The prescribed expenditure limits are £20,000 for England and £10,000 for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If these criteria are fulfilled, the charity will have to register with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner. Once registered the charity must comply with spending and donations controls and reporting requirements.
Charities will rarely be able to satisfy the third criteria above. Charity law prohibits charities from supporting specific candidates or parties. However, charities have in the past passed this test, due to their particular circumstances and have registered as non-party campaigners.
The Election Act 2022 brings in a new category of lower tier campaigner, who will be required to register and fulfil lower transparency and expenditure requirements if they spend more than £10,000 on public facing activities likely to promote a candidate or party – this is likely to apply to charities working across the UK or in England alone, as the requirements for the other nations are already £10,000.
Rules for non party campaigners
Changes to legal requirements for non party campaigners