The Pre-Election Period and Planning

Following the announcement yesterday, a general election is to be held on 4th July 2024. As part of this, we are going to be entering a pre-election period from the 30th May, allowing the required 25 working days before a general election.

Political parties are preparing their campaign strategies and amid the campaigning, civil servants working for the current Government need to be particularly sensitive about impartiality. The pre-election period means that certain restrictions are placed on their actives during the pre-election period. 

Amid the campaigning, civil servants working for the current Government need to be particularly sensitive about impartiality. This means that certain restrictions are placed on their activities during the pre-election period. 

The pre-election period will last from 30th May to 4th July. What does that mean in practice for planning, and what does it mean for you?

Central Government

Cabinet Office guidance states:

“During the election period, the Government retains its responsibility to govern, and Ministers remain in charge of their departments. Essential business must be carried on. However, it is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.”

Local Government

So how does this pre-election period affect local government activity? For the purposes of the Government’s code of recommended practice on local government publicity this is a period of “heightened sensitivity”.

“Local authorities should pay particular regard to the legislation governing publicity during the period of heightened sensitivity before elections and referendums […]. It may be necessary to suspend the hosting of material produced by third parties, or to close public forums during this period to avoid breaching any legal restrictions.

During the period between the notice of an election and the election itself, local authorities should not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views or proposals in such a way that identifies them with any individual members or groups of members. Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published by local authorities during this period unless expressly authorised by or under statute. It is permissible for local authorities to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

In general, local authorities should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters…”

However, as set out in the Local Government Association’s 2017 guidance, the pre-election period is not an excuse to avoid determining planning applications: 

“Local government sometimes views this period as a time when communications has to shut down completely. This is not the case, and the ordinary functions of councils should continue, but some restrictions do apply, by law, to all councillors and officers.”

Planning Inspectorate

During the pre-election period, we do not expect the Planning Inspectorate to be issuing any decisions or reports in relation to controversial proposals which may be used for electoral advantage by any party.

What does this mean for me?

At EP, we will continue to be working with clients to deliver our planning services. If you need support with planning, looking to develop land, or don’t know where to start, contact us and we can discuss this all with you. You can also follow us on LinkedIn to keep up to date with everything we do. 

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