Newshound: Local elections threatened by staff and polling station shortages

The Guardian reports today that staff shortages and a lack of available polling stations risk bringing chaos to May’s local elections in England. Schools have been all but ruled out and many established venues are in use for testing or vaccinating.

There are concerns that some counts could take so long they contravene the law which says the count must be conducted within four days.

Newshound is currently recruiting fellow hounds prepared to offer their kennel at the price of one biscuit a voter if polling officers get desperate.

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  • John Marriott 20th Feb '21 - 9:48am

    Just postpone them!

  • And make them all postal.

  • John Marriott 20th Feb '21 - 2:08pm

    @David Blake
    Apparently Royal Mail cannot deliver that!

  • David Blake 20th Feb '21 - 3:30pm

    @John Marriott. Part of the problem of privatising it.

  • nvelope2003 20th Feb '21 - 4:09pm

    David Blake: Yes they have a lot more work now and its not just caused by COVID

  • John Marriott 20th Feb '21 - 5:26pm

    As you appear to have been an envelope some 18 years ago, perhaps you might offer to help??🤪🤪

  • Tony Greaves 20th Feb '21 - 9:20pm

    We had a meeting yesterday of the Pendle Council “governance working group” (that I chair) which discussed the position here where we have an all-out Borough election on new wards, the County elections and the Lancs PCC election. There are serious problems not least with staffing, and some changes to polling stations, but we think we will just about cope. The counts will take place over three days (Friday to Sunday) with the Borough first and the PCC last. But there are lots of opportunities for cock-ups and the whole operation is taking up a lot of Council resources that are really needed elsewhere at the moment.

  • John Marriott 21st Feb '21 - 7:49am

    I think that even Lord Greaves is having second thoughts. ‘Coping’ isn’t good enough. Why turn what sone see as an opportunity into a farce. Postpone them until the Autumn, keep your powder dry and, if restrictions are lifted, make proper preparations. If you go ahead you will be playing into the Tories’ hands, just as the opposition parties did at Westminster in the Autumn of 2019.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Feb '21 - 4:15pm

    I don’t know why John Marriott, a consistent perpetrator of unhelpful comment here, thinks “even” I am having second thoughts. I am strongly of the view that the elections should be postponed to September and have been for some time (along with several colleagues in the Lords). But it may have escaped Mr Marriott that we do not run the Government – they got lots of advice including form inside government departments that these elections should be postponed to a more sensible time. But the Conservative Party think they are on to a winner in May and insisted they go ahead.

  • John Marriott 21st Feb '21 - 4:34pm

    Lord Greaves is annoyed with me. Now that’s what I call result! In any case, as I’ve written many times before, here in Lincolnshire we all know what the result will be.

  • Don’t really see a problem, the use of schools has previously been ruled out, so alternative venues had to be found. Also in recent times, venues have been found for vaccination centres and Census centres, plus pubs and restaurants will still be closed. Suspect it just requires a little forethought and asking people… Personally, I’ve already made it known to my Parish council, the school’s fete sized gazebos (and team to erect them) are available.

    As for staff, well there are still lots of people on furlough, who according to the rules are available for voluntary work.

  • The biggest reason for postponing them is not the mechanics of polling stations and counting.

    But it is the campaigning before that – delivery of leaflets which the Government says is risky (or at least the voluntary delivery of political leaflets is according to them – not any other type of delivery and not any other leaflets) and canvassing/door knocking.

    Now these come considerably earlier than voting and is surely part of people’s democratic right to be harassed by politicians – sorry that should be – informed on exciting policies! But seriously outside of North Korea this democratic discourse is an important part of elections.

    Secondly holding elections is a one-off event – unlike schooling or the economy – it can just as easily happen in September as May – in May the risks of actually voting will be small but by September they and more importantly associated activities before an election – will be very considerably reduced (fingers crossed and from what we can deduce at the moment!)

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