Preparation for the 2024 General Election: Election Period Policies

We are now only 8 months out from the 2024 election cycle – how quickly it has come around!

The Local Government Act 2020 saw the introduction of new requirements around an election period policy, which now must form part of council’s Governance Rules under section 69.

As our attention starts to turn to election preparations, it is a good time for councils to reflect how their election period policy worked during the 2020 election period.

Some important things to think about include what were the unexpected issues you faced during the election period that you need to address and what feedback did you have from councillors and staff about your policy’s guidance to them during that time?  

The landscape in which we operate has changed and the last election saw the rise of the use of social media for campaigns, largely due to the Covid 19 pandemic.  This presented challenges for the sector, but it is expected that four years down the track the use of social media for campaigning will only ramp up.  We encourage you to think about whether adequate guidance is provided in your current policy.

As always, the use of council resources by sitting councillor seeking re-election is a key challenge during the election period.  It is essential that councils ensure that resources such as ICT equipment, staff, events/consultation, media (including social media accounts) and publications are not used in any way that is intended or likely to influence voting. 

In the coming months we will review election period policies and update the sample council policy resources on our website to provide the sector with examples that address the key governance issues that the Inspectorate has identified in previous reviews.  

As a reminder, Governance Rules can only be updated under section 60(4) after a process of community engagement is undertaken. Your community engagement policy will provide guidance as to what level of engagement is required.

An election period policy must prohibit any decision that would enable the use of council’s resources in a way that is likely to, or intended to, influence voting - namely:

  • any council decision that relates to the appointment or remuneration of the CEO (this excludes Acting CEO arrangements)
  • commits council to expenditure exceeding 1% of the last financial year’s revenue from rates, municipal charges and service charges
  • decisions that could reasonably be deferred until after the election
  • any other decision that council believes should not be made during the election period.