ADVICE: Who is eligible to stand for an election?

ALDC exists to provide the Advice, Resources and Templates that you need to get elected and make a difference for your area. Below is our advice article on how to ensure candidates are eligible to stand for election. You can find all sorts of advice on our advice microsite.

Even if you are simply looking for a slate of ‘paper’ candidates, running a basic approval and selection process is important to make sure that you don’t have anyone standing who may cause problems for the party at a later date. But to run such a process you need to check everyone is eligible to stand.

Candidate eligibility can be a complex area with some less than obvious rules making it difficult to decide whether someone can stand for election or not.

Who is allowed to stand for election to a principal council?

If you are standing for election, you must meet both of the following criteria on both the day your nomination papers are submitted AND on polling day:

  • Have reached 18 years of age.
  • Be a British citizen, a citizen of another European Union country or be a “qualifying” Commonwealth citizen.

As well as these two basic criteria you must also meet at least ONE of the following qualifications, although we recommend that you fill in all of the ways in which you qualify on the nomination papers.

  • Be on the electoral roll somewhere within the area of the council for which you are standing. If you only qualify on these grounds then you must remain on the register continuously throughout your time as a councillor.
  • You have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.
  • Have your main or only place of work solely somewhere within the local authority area for which you are standing during the last 12 months.
  • Have lived for all of the previous 12 months within the area of the council for which you are standing.

Am I disqualified from standing for election to a principal council?

There are a number of criteria that would completely disqualify you from standing for election:

  • If you are subject to a Bankruptcy Restriction Order, Bankruptcy Interim Order or a Bankruptcy Restrictions Undertaking in England and Wales, been declared bankrupt in Northern Ireland or had your estate sequestrated in Scotland. If you have an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) you are not disqualified.
  • If you have been convicted of an imprisonable offence within five years of polling day and sentenced to three months or more in prison (including a suspended sentence) without the option of a fine.
  • If you have been disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and the Audit Commission Act 1998. This largely related to convictions in an election court, any offence related to financial donations or being surcharged by a district auditor.
  • You cannot stand for election to any council that employs you, and this often also applies if you work for a joint authority or local partnership that involves the council you wish to stand for.
  • Teachers and other school staff are in a complex situation. In addition to the usual bar on standing for a council that employs you, you cannot usually stand for election to a council that appoints representatives to your school’s governing body or part funds the school even if you aren’t employed directly by that council. This can therefore often rule out staff from foundation schools, free schools and academies, from standing for the council in which the school is situated.
  • Holding a job that has been defined as ‘politically restricted’ bars you from standing for election to any council. These are usually top management, people who regularly directly advise councillors, most political assistants and any job deemed politically sensitive.
  • If you are in Scotland, you cannot stand if you received a councillor’s severance payment following the 2007 election.

Are the eligibility criteria any different for town, parish or community councils?

All of the rules that apply to principal councils apply to town, parish and community councils in England and Wales. However, the rule on where you can live is less strict and you just have to live within 4.8km of the parish boundary (as the crow flies) for at least the preceding 12 months.

In Scotland, community councils are specifically non-party political and the nomination procedure varies and so you need to check with your principal council.

What are the rules for directly-elected mayors?

The eligibility rules for directly-elected mayors (whether for councils or combined authorities) are exactly the same as for principal councils, except where the mayor is also the Police & Crime Commissioner. In which case the additional disqualifications listed below also apply.

Approval and selection

For those who are progressing with their approval and selection of candidates, don’t forget our excellent pack. Even if you are simply looking for a slate of ‘paper’ candidates, running a basic approval and selection process is important to make sure that you don’t have anyone standing who may cause problems for the party at a later date. Find out more.

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