The Electoral Commission has called on Parliament to modify the Localism Bill to delay the proposed start date for local referendums on Council Tax levels, neighbourhood development plans and local authority structures (e.g. elected Mayors) from Spring 2012 to Spring 2013.
It’s forthright message, headlined (in capital letters no less): “IMPORTANT RECOMMENDATION TO PARLIAMENT” is that with the legislation not yet passed by Parliament, there will simply not be enough time between it being passed and the proposed first possible local referendum date for the contests to be properly run. Instead, it says implementation should be delayed by a year in order to provide a sufficient gap between legislation and implementation.
This sort of warning by the Electoral Commission has become a regular feature of autumnal politics as governments of different political complexions have pushed through legislation ahead of the following spring. However, in this case their views are being expressed in a particularly strident manner.
That is no doubt due to the fact that the creation of local referendums raises far more issues of administrative organisation than the changes introduced by previous rounds of legislation. In theory, for example, some lucky voters could get to vote in five different referendums on the same day in the spring, with those different referendums taking place across differing organisational boundaries.