Can you hold the Annual Parish Meeting during Purdah?

The forthcoming elections on 2 May 2019 falls within the statutory period (1 March to 1 June) that local councils hold their Annual Parish or Town Meeting – the annual assembly of residents of the area, not a Council meeting.

Many Councils use their parish / town meeting as an opportunity to report on achievements and finances during the previous 12 months. Often, Councils hold annual awards promoting outstanding actions of nominated residents. At the very least, these meetings are an opportunity for residents to ask questions of the council and responses may risk a breach of the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, (March 2011), if this meeting is held within the period of Purdah.

What's Purdah?

Councils must not publish, arrange for or give financial support to the publication of any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party. Councils are required to have regard to the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (March 2011), when considering publicity decisions.

Purdah relates to the period leading up to an election, when Councils must take extra care when considering their publishing obligations due to the heightened sensitivity of the period. The period begins with the notice of election and ends on election day. The notice of election is no later than 26 March 2019, but many Norfolk Local Authorities have set a date earlier than this, so local councils must apply the date set by their district or borough.

Taking care means that a platform must not be given to the achievements of the existing council and neither should the council do anything which helps to promote or endorse individual candidates. This applies to all local councils, regardless of whether their candidates are independent, or party affiliated.

However, this does not mean a council should suspend its normal business. Matters such as planning consultation must continue as it would at any other time.

So, the answer is?

It depends on what your Council plans to do or say at the APM. However, to defer the meeting until after the elections would be the safest option. It also gives your new Council an opportunity to introduce itself to residents and engage in some community consultation to help prepare the Council's action plan for the term ahead.

Posted: Mon, 04 Feb 2019 12:15 by Helen Carrier

Tags: Elections, Purdah