Agenda and minutes

Electoral Provisions Sub-Committee - Monday 18 October 2010 7.00 pm

Venue: Board Room - Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Alan Twyman 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor R Bryant.

2.

Declarations of Interests

To receive any declarations of interest Members may wish to make including the term(s) of the Grant of Dispensation(s) by the Standards Committee.

Minutes:

Councillor A R Martin declared a personal interest in Agenda item 6, Review of Polling Places 2010, as he is a member of Stone Parish Council and one of the proposals related to the use of Stone Community Hall which is owned by the Parish Council.

3.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

4.

References from Other Committees, if any

Minutes:

There were no references from other committees.

5.

Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 12 KB

To note the terms of reference of the Electoral Provisions Sub-Committee.

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

That the terms of reference of the Electoral Provisions Sub-Committee be noted, including its ability to make recommendations to the Council on matters within its terms of reference.

6.

Review of Polling Places 2010 pdf icon PDF 23 KB

To consider the review of Polling Places 2010 and endorse the changes to the location of polling places outlined in the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-committee considered a review of the current location of polling places in the Dartford Borough and Parliamentary constituency in the light of the recent General Election and taking into account any imperatives for changes or improvements in the delivery of electoral provision. The Sub-committee was reminded that a full review of Polling Places has to be carried out at least every four years with the next one due in 2011 but that it was open to the Council to review its polling places at any time. The report outlined the methodology of the light touch review of current polling places, which had been carried out partly to provide reassurance given the problems experienced in other parts of the country on polling day during the General Election, and as a result of requests for a change of location or a need to identify alternative provision because of development activity affecting the location of current polling places. Members noted that no problems relating to the location of polling places was experienced in the Dartford constituency during the election and commented on the efficiency with which electoral arrangements were implemented.

 

The Sub-Committee was asked to consider making four changes to the provision of polling places, one arising from a request from the owner of the building used as a polling station and three arising from development or potential development activity:

 

·        PA – Christchurch Parish Hall, Christchurch Road, Dartford

 

The owner of the building currently used had asked for the Council to consider this being relocated from the Parish Hall, which was frequently hired out on Thursdays, to the nearby Parish Room as shown on Appendix A to the report;

 

·        LA – Stone Village Parish Hall, Church Hill, Stone Place Road, Stone , Greenhithe

 

Although a planning application to demolish the Parish Hall to be replaced by housing had been rejected it was considered that this could be subject to further development proposals. The Sub-Committee was asked to consider locating a temporary polling station in the car park of the nearby “Lads of the Village” Public House, as shown in Appendix B to the report, in the event of the current polling place being unavailable;

 

·        IB – Colyers Arms Car Park, Station Road, Betsham, Kent

 

This polling place was also subject to a planning application and although this had been rejected was subject to appeal to the Planning inspectorate. The Sub–Committee was asked to consider moving the location to an adjacent public layby as shown on Appendix C to the report should the existing location not be available. Whilst recognising that this was not ideal it was noted that no other suitable alternative location had been identified and the proposed location had the advantage of being adjacent to the existing site currently used to locate a temporary polling station.

 

·        FC – The Pavilion, Stone

 

Members were informed that the existing Pavilion had been demolished as part of a development project to be completed during the winter, involving the construction of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Parliamentary General Election May 2010 - Electoral Commission Review of Problems at Polling Stations at Close of Poll and Review of the Administration of the Election pdf icon PDF 49 KB

To consider the findings of the Electoral Commission’s Interim Review of Problems at Polling Stations at the Close of Poll on 6 May 2010 and Report on the Administration of the 2010 UK General Election.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered the findings of two reports from the Electoral Commission. The first, entitled “Interim Review of Problems at Polling Stations at the Close of Poll on 6 May 2010”, was issued in May and looked at the specific issues which occurred on polling day which resulted in queues being experienced at a small number of polling stations which had meant that some electors had been unable to vote by 10 pm. The report considered that a number of factors had contributed to the problems:

 

  • All of the affected constituencies were holding combined elections and polling station staff were having to issue multiple ballot papers and explain the differing franchises to voters – in one case there was a parliamentary, borough and Mayoral election taking place in the constituency;

 

  • In many cases the number of staff allocated to the affected polling stations was less than the number recommended by the Electoral Commission;

 

  • Many of the stations had a large number of eligible electors and several comfortably exceeded the maximum number of electors of 2,500 recommended by the Commission for allocation to a polling station;

 

  • Some of the buildings used as polling stations were unsuitable and this added to delays in dealing with individual electors; 

 

  • The Commission concluded that Acting Returning Officers had applied inadequate planning assumptions both in terms of anticipating the likely level of turnout and in terms of contingency planning;

 

  • That contingency arrangements were activated too late in the day to be effective, because polling station staff had been uncertain over the circumstances in which they should alert senior staff and had left it too late to raise their concerns; and

 

  • That some Presiding Officers and Returning Officers had continued to issue ballot papers, incorrectly, after 10 pm or had handed them out to people in the queue.

 

The Electoral Commission had made a number of recommendations including:

 

  • Restrictive legislation should be changed to amend the election rules to permit any elector entitled to vote who is in a queue at the close of poll to be allowed to vote;

 

  • Local authorities and Acting Returning Officers should review their approach to planning for adequate polling station and staffing provision for all future elections and to review their polling districts and polling places;
  • The UK Government should bring forward a comprehensive plan for modernising and ensuring professional electoral administration in Great Britain, including responding to the recommendations made in the Commission’s review of electoral administration in August 2008. This should include the role that advance polling might play in providing more flexible options for people wishing to vote.

 

The Commission also intended to review the guidance that it issued to electoral administrators and recommended that legislation should be changed to allow anyone queuing at a polling station at 10pm to be allowed to vote.

 

The Sub-committee noted the Commission’s findings and the fact that none of these problems were encountered in Dartford because of the strength of the planning process for elections, the provision of adequate resources  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Beyond 2010: The Future of Electoral Administration in the UK pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To consider the contents and recommendations in the report “Beyond 2010: The Future of Electoral Administration in the UK” by the Association of Electoral Administrators.  

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a report by the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) entitled “Beyond 2010; the Future of Electoral Administration in the UK”. The report reviewed the performance of electoral services during the General and local elections in May 2010 and identified issues relating to current arrangements for electoral management. In particular the AEA voiced concerns about over reliance upon small teams of electoral administrators to deliver successful elections against legislative timetables designed in the Victorian age which were not fit-for-purpose in the 21st century which did not sit well with requirements around postal voting and rolling and late registration. The AEA report made 17 recommendations including the consolidation of overarching legislation in a single Electoral Administration Act to provide a high level framework for conducting elections, a single statutory timetable of 30 working days for all elections, more sensible rules on the combination of polls and reviewing several of the elements within the timetable in the context of the introduction of individual registration. 

 

Members asked whether the Managing Director had ever received a response from the police regarding allegations of electoral fraud relating to a particular nomination paper at an earlier election. The Managing Director confirmed that the matter had been referred to the police who had passed evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service but that no action had been taken and the Council had never had an official response. Members registered their concerns at the lack of response and suggested that this should be taken up with the area commander.   

 

            RESOLVED:

 

That the content and recommendations contained in the AEA Election Report “Beyond 2010: The Future of Electoral Administration in the UK” be noted.