Purdah communication and resource rules

Purdah places restrictions on government and public bodies during elections. There have already been two claims over the misuse of communication and resources.

Complaints of misuse of government resources

Although restrictions only began today claims of the misuse of government resources began before the purdah period.

Chancellor Sajid Javid asked the Treasury to calculate the cost of nine Labour policies. Javid planned to publish the findings until Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill blocked the move following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

In a case last week the Government came under fire for spending public money on Facebook ads targeted at voters in marginal constitutions announced in September. The ads promoted £25m being targeted in locations such as Milton Keynes, Morley, Northampton and Workington

The ads created by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) are no longer being promoted after being highlighted by the Huffington Post.

What is purdah?

Purdah is the period between the announcement of an election and the formation of a new government.

Restrictions are placed on communication by government and public bodies during purdah following reason:

  • ensure clear separation between public service communication and political campaigning

  • avoid criticism of inappropriate use of public resources

  • avoid competition for public attention with parliamentary candidates

Purdah places limitations on the use of all forms of paid, earned, shared and owned media.

When is purdah?

Purdah starts today with the dissolution of Parliament and will remain in place until 13 December, when the new government is due to be announced.

Is my organisation covered by purdah?

Purdah covers civil servants of Government departments, local government, and the board members and staff of public bodies, and arm’s length organisations.

Managing business as usual while adhering to purdah rules is a challenge for any public sector communicator.

What communication is permitted during purdah?

  • Organisations may continue to discharge their normal function such as providing factual statements, however they should not become involve in partisan issues.

  • Routine press notices may continue to be issued such as statistics or reports from publicly owned bodies. A similar approach applies to blogs and social media.

  • Material published online may be updated for factual accuracy such as a change of address, but nothing should be done to draw further attention.

  • Social media and blogs updating the public with essential information may continue. Digital channels can be used as part of a crisis communication activity in a normal way.

Check the policy documents listed below for full guidance.

What communication is restricted communication during purdah?

  • Statements about the future intention of the Government or policy should be treated as political forms of communication.

  • Ministers continue to run the Government during an election period however care should be taken in any communication to avoid political content.

  • Films, videos and photographs from Government libraries should not be made available to political parties.

  • Advertising campaigns should be stopped, and printed materials should not be given fresh distribution to avoid competition with election material.

  • Social media and blogs that comment on government policies and proposals should not be updated.

Check the policy documents listed below for full guidance.

Where can I find further information?

Updated social media guidance for purdah, Comms2point0

What purdah means in practice, Local Government Association

General election guidance 2019: guidance for civil servants, Cabinet Office

Photo by Steve Houghton-Burnett on Unsplash

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