The new guidance is set to roll out from the first week of January, ahead of next year’s General Election.
One of the EC’s functions is to advise all UK political parties on the legal issues surrounding donations and loans. This is based on the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which all political parties must comply with.
Ros Baston, lead adviser (party and election finance) at the EC, says the organisation wanted to update its advice to provide better regulation through guidance. She adds, ‘Our guidance hasn’t been comprehensively reviewed since the [commission] was set up in 2001.’
Gloucestershire-based Freeman Christie was appointed in July following a tender, and tasked with reworking the EC’s guidance to make it more accessible. All design and copywriting was carried out in-house.
Freeman Christie partner Mark McArthur-Christie says, ‘The guidance has to apply to the major political parties, who generally know what they are doing, right the way down to the smaller parties, who might not.’
He says the consultancy has, from a small number of ‘socking great’ documents, created more than 50 smaller documents with clear information and navigation.
These range from overview documents through to in-depth expert papers.
McArthur-Christie explains, ‘The top levels would apply more to informed readers – for example, the Tory Party’s compliance officer – therefore they don’t need to be as graphic. At this level, it’s more about the information.’
He adds, ‘Because there is a wide audience for this information, we wanted to slice it vertically and horizontally so that we could have people coming in at different levels, instead of having to search through one massive document.’
The new guidance will be made available on the EC’s website, where it will be presented as a series of cross-referencing PDFs.