Pre-election period guidance for Office of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner staff.

 

  1. Introduction

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) is a non-political, impartial organisation which exists to support the work of the elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

 

The role of the OPCC in any election (PCC, local or general) is to remain impartial and fair. This document sets out the rules and conventions associated with the pre-election period, the time between when an election is announced and when it is completed. The exact meaning of ‘completed’ varies with different elections.

 

Whether or not PCCs have a particular allegiance to a political party, it is recognised as a political role. Whilst there are key principles PCCs should bear in mind, in seeking re-election, or supporting other individuals seeking election, PCCs are acting in a personal capacity and should not use their public office to influence the outcome of an election.

 

It should be noted that this guidance does not apply to PCCs (or Deputy PCCs), who are politically unrestricted.

 

  1. Pre-election period

Given the dominance of policing issues generally, the pre-election period is a particularly sensitive time.

 

During this period, it is important that the OPCC does not act in a manner where its neutrality is called into question by being seen to favour, or to provide publicity for any candidates, parties, groups, associations and/or others involved in an election.

 

  1. Conduct of OPCC staff

OPCC staff are expected to conduct normal OPCC business in a politically-impartial way at all times. However, it is important to exercise even greater care and act with scrupulous impartiality during any pre-election period.

 

Staff are reminded that all posts within the OPCC are politically restricted. Staff should therefore take care to ensure that any views shared, including on social media, are in context, appropriate and will not bring the OPCC into public disrepute by being seen to support or denigrate one candidate, party, group or association over another.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, holders of politically restricted posts are prevented from:

  • Standing as a member of—
  1. a) the House of Commons; b) the European Parliament; or c) a local authority.
  • Acting as an election agent or sub‐agent for a candidate for Parliament, European Parliament or a local authority.
  • Being an officer of a political party or of any branch of such a party or a member of any committee or sub‐committee of such a party or branch if his duties as such an officer or member would be likely to require him -
  1. to participate in the general management of the party or the branch; or
  2. to act on behalf of the party or branch in dealings with persons other than members of the party or members of another political party associated with the party.
  • Canvassing on behalf of a political party or on behalf of a person who is, or proposes to be, a candidate for election to Parliament, European Parliament or a local authority.

(Local Government Officers (Political Restrictions) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990 No 851)

 

  1. Principles

The guiding principle is that staff will refrain from undertaking any activity which could call into question the political neutrality of the OPCC. Staff should test this principle by asking themselves:

  • Does the activity appear to (or actually) favour one candidate, party, group or association over another, whether in terms of information or public profile?
  • Is the activity likely to affect or influence the outcome of an election?
  • Would the request being made compromise the conduct of normal business?

 

The general principles that will be applied are as follows:

  • The OPCC will continue to conduct business in the normal way.
  • The OPCC will not announce significant new policies or plans (provided that deferring a decision is not detrimental to the public interest or wasteful of public money).
  • Candidates, parties, groups and associations will be treated even-handedly and receive the same level of detail and right of access to information.
  • Requests that are clearly political in nature (e.g. personal endorsements, invitations to party events etc.) will be forwarded to the PCC’s personal email account; the OPCC will not deal with the request and it will be deleted without logging.
  • OPCC (and Force) facilities will not be used for election purposes (e.g. rooms, buildings, IT equipment, telephones etc.)
  • Staff must not do something for one candidate, party, group or association that they would not, or could not, undertake for another.
  • Staff will not offer political opinions, nor make statements that do not reflect OPCC policy.
  • Staff will avoid putting themselves in a position or situation which could be used by a candidate, party, group or association to support their campaign.
  • Staff will make themselves aware of the political restrictions and associated responsibilities in relation to elections.
  • No material associated with an election will be displayed within the OPCC office.
  • The PCC’s diary will be kept up to date with a clear distinction between meetings/events which are attended in their capacity as PCC and those in a private capacity.
  • Where staff have any concerns or queries, they should be discussed with the Chief Executive.

 

  1. Requests from candidates or campaign teams

For information:

  • Will be treated as from a member of the public – candidates are not elected representatives and there is no duty to treat them as such.
  • Will be directed to the general e-mail account ([email protected]) or telephoned through on the office number (01622 677055).
  • Will be logged under the ‘Election’ tab and allocated to the Head of Policy Coordination & Research.
  • In formulating a response, it will be recognised that the information may be exploited for campaigning purposes.
  • As per Freedom of Information requests, the cost, time and nature will be considered before providing any response.
  • The OPCC will aim to deal with such requests as soon as practicably possible.
  • Candidates, parties, groups and associations are not entitled to confidential or restricted information.
  • All requests and responses will be published on the OPCC website so the information is publicly available to all candidates.

 

For a visit/meeting:

  • Will be referred to the Head of Policy Coordination & Research.
  • The OPCC must continue with business as usual. This may include interaction with candidates and therefore care must be exercised to say or do nothing which does, or may be appear to, favour a candidate, party, group or association.
  • Principle methods of fact finding will be through the OPCC website and requests for information.

 

For photographs/filming:

  • Will be referred to the Head of Policy Coordination & Research.
  • OPCC staff must not be filmed or photographed as part of any campaign.
  • All staff must maintain their independence and not be seen to be biased and/or supporting one candidate, party, group or association over another.

 

To use police imagery:

  • Any campaign material which uses police images/livery could appear to show support for a candidate, party, group or association.
  • Any requests for use should be referred to the Head of Policy Coordination & Research.
  • If police imagery is identified in campaign material, the Chief Executive should be made aware.
  • Where imagery is used without prior consent, the Chief Executive/Chief Constable will consider the need to request removal or withdrawal.

 

Any complaint from a candidate will be managed as per current procedures.

 

  1. Publicity

OPCCs are required to have due regard at all times to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (March 2011) issued under sections 52 and 54 of the Local Government Act 1986. The Code is based around seven principles to ensure that all communications activity:

  • Is lawful
  • Is cost effective
  • Is objective
  • Is even-handed
  • Is appropriate
  • Has regard to equality and diversity
  • Is issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity (i.e. during pre-election period)

 

The Code defines publicity as ‘any communication in material terms, addressed to the public at large or a section of the public’.

 

The OPCC will not publish any material, which in whole or in part, appears to be or could be construed as being designed to affect public support for a candidate, party, group or association. Publications (e.g. Newsletters) will continue if they are produced in the ordinary course of business and meet all other pre-election period guidance requirements.

 

Proactive events arranged by the OPCC in any pre-election period should not involve anyone likely to be standing in an election.

 

Care also needs to be taken in the use of official social media platforms to avoid accidental or inappropriate use, such as retweeting and liking/favouring political material. Social media accounts will only be used for official PCC activity.

 

A response by the Chief Executive may be appropriate when claims by a candidate, party, group or association are based upon factually incorrect information or where it is necessary to correct misunderstandings that could impact on confidence in the OPCC and/or the Force.

 

  1. Handling media enquiries

All media enquiries will be referred to the Communications Manager (and copied to the Head of Policy Coordination & Research).

 

This policy is subject to revision by the Chief Executive; it was last reviewed in March 2021.

 

 

 

This guidance has been developed taking note of advice published by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the Association of Policing and Crime Chief Executives.