Guide for campaigners and councillors

This guidance outlines the key issues that apply in the relation to publicity during the period leading up to any Neighbourhood Planning Referendum. 

This period runs from the publication date of the Information Statement, which will be published a minimum of 28 days before the date of the referendum until the date of the referendum (inclusive).

This guidance also deals with restrictions on how much may be spent by campaigners by way of expenses incurred in the conduct of any campaign either in support of or in opposition to the referendum question.

The guidance also outlines specific campaigning restrictions in relation to an individual’s role as an elected Councillor.

In this guidance, the term ‘Councillor’ means an elected Councillor of Bedford Borough Council or relevant parish council unless stated otherwise. The term ‘Council’ refers to Bedford Borough Council, which are also the local planning authority or parish council where stated.


  • Councillors can create their own publicity for the referendum, providing that Council resources are not used.
  • All Councillors must comply with the provisions of the adopted Code of Conduct.
  • Council / parish council business will continue during the referendum period. This includes publicity around normal Council / parish council business and events. It is important, however, to ensure that Council / parish council processes are not used or allowed to be used or manipulated by anyone in relation to the referendum.
  • Before arranging any events in the referendum area involving Councillors, the organiser should take advice from the Electoral Services Team.
  • No posters or leaflets should be displayed on Council / parish council premises or vehicles
  • Views on the referendum question that could be seen as ‘for’ or ‘against’ the proposal must not be published by the Council / parish council.
  • Press releases issued by the Council / parish council should not be used to support or oppose the referendum question.
  • Councillors representing the Neighbourhood Plan Area should not be quoted in any press releases issued (if any) relating to the referendum.
  • Councillors in the Neighbourhood Plan Area need to maintain a clear distinction between their official duties as a serving Council / parish council and their involvement with any campaign relating to the referendum. They should not give any impression that Council / parish council resources have been used either for referendum or private purposes. Councillors should continue to deal with ward work and represent their constituents during the referendum period.
  • Particular care must be taken by Councillors who hold positions of responsibility at the Council / parish council where, by virtue of their role, they could be seen to be supporting or opposing a referendum question.
  • The Neighbourhood Planning (Referendum) Regulations 2012 (Section 5) prohibits the Council / parish council from publishing any promotional material other than that required to be published under Section 4 (Information Statement and specified documents, or factual information about the referendum) during the referendum period.

Referendum expenses

  • Each campaign group may spend a maximum of £2,362, plus £0.059 for each entry in the relevant register of electors in connection with a referendum campaign.  The exact amount allowed for each Neighbourhood Plan Area will be published in the Information Statement or may be obtained from the Electoral Services Team at  
  • Expenses relates to expenses incurred by or on behalf of any individual or body during the referendum period in relation to:
    • advertising of any nature
    • unsolicited material addressed to voters
    • information about the referendum, question, and arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’
    • market research or canvassing
    • provision of any property, services or facilities in connection with press conferences or dealings with the media
    • transport (by any means) of persons to anywhere with a view to obtaining publicity in connection with a referendum campaign
    • rallies and other events, including public meetings
  • Expenses also include any notional expenses, where property, services or facilities that would usually have a charge attached are provided free of charge or at a discount.
  • Campaigning groups are encouraged to register with and submit a statement of expenses to the Counting Officer via the Electoral Services Team.
  • It is an offence for a campaign organiser to exceed the referendum expenses limit and, if found guilty, would be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months

Advice for campaign groups

There are no specific legal requirements for campaign groups at neighbourhood planning referendums other than it being a criminal offence to exceed the campaign expense limit. Regardless, transparency in the work campaigning groups conduct will promote confidence in the campaign and referendum process overall. 

Some good practices are set out below:

  • Each campaign group should have a distinct name
  • Each campaign group should register with the Electoral Services Team. The Electoral Services Team should be advised of the name of the campaign group, at least one ‘responsible person’ or secretary of the group. Contact details including an address, email address a phone number would be useful to enable the Electoral Services Team to contact the group so that count observers can be formally appointed
  • Records should be kept of any donations or monies raised. Records and receipts should be kept for any spending on campaign material or notional expenses (where property, services or facilities are provided free of charge or at a discount). 
  • Campaign groups do not have to report or submit campaign spending, but it is encouraged that an expenses report is returned after the referendum. The Electoral Services Team will have a template that can be provided to campaign groups on request.
  • If the campaign group has a website, make sure that it is clear who is behind the campaign group (the responsible person, secretary or anyone else formally involved).  If possible, please set up an email address and publish it on the website, so that the group can correspond directly with electors.
  • Any publicity produced by campaign groups should have an imprint. This includes websites, twitter pages and posters. The Electoral Commission has guidance that is more suited to national campaign groups, but the general principles apply to campaign groups. 
  • Avoid placing posters on highway signs or telegraph phones. Homeowners and landowners may display material, but you must not pay them to do so.
  • Campaign groups may wish to produce and distribute unsolicited material to electors, and may want to bear in mind the dates of delivery of poll cards and postal votes. The full timetable with these dates will usually be available on the Council’s website as soon as the referendum date is confirmed.
  • No advice can be provided as to what campaign groups should or should not put in their campaigning material. However, groups must avoid making any derogatory statements about the character of individuals, or developers.

Further queries

Please contact the Electoral Service Team at  or on 01234 718078 If you have any additional queries.