Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Seventh Report

9 Infrastructure of Elections


93. All the evidence we received told us that all-postal elections are more expensive than conventional ones:

Bill Crawford, Elections Officer, Sunderland City Council: "Sunderland piloted last May. It had a normal cost of a traditional election at about £150,000 and an all-postal was £200,000."[149]

John Pitt, Corporate Director, Resources, Wakefield Council: "If it is all right for me to mention the costs in another authority, last year Doncaster's traditional ballot cost approximately £140,000 and the postal ballot cost approximately £156,000, which was an 11 per cent increase. I would say, though, certainly from Wakefield's point of view, that there is no doubt that the cost of running a postal ballot for the first time leads to incurring considerable additional cost due to the need for publicity, communications and an understanding by the public of the changes."[150]

Roger Morris, East Midlands Regional Returning Officer, European Parliamentary Elections: "In 1999 our cost per voter in Northampton North and South parliamentary constituencies was 73 pence per voter. Let's say that is 80 pence or 85 pence in today's money or something of that sort, I think that is the benchmark. I will be interested to see what quotations I get in, but we are working on the broad-brush basis that it is going to be about £1 a vote, but, of course, if the turnout had been twice as great in 1999, the cost per voter would probably have been more or less half, because we had spent all the up-front money, and the number of people who turn out directly divides into that statistic, so there is a degree of artificiality about that. You need to compare like turnout with like turnout in order to assess value as well as the actual bills that you have spent."[151]

Roger Morris' last point is important. If all-postal voting produces a higher turnout, then the cost per voter may be lower than at a conventional election with low turnout. Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local Government Association, agrees:

"They [all postal elections] will be more expensive in gross terms, the unit terms will fall somewhat."[152]

94. Parish councils are worried about the cost implications of all-postal voting:

Westbury Town Council: "Following discussion, it was agreed to support all postal pilot schemes if there is no additional cost to the Town Council compared to running a normal 'polling station' election."[153]

Steeple Ashton Parish Council: "Administration and Costs - we have been advised that the cost of postal voting will be higher than voting at a polling station. It is not felt necessary to pay more for a service that is already well proven."[154]

Codford Parish Council: "One of the things at the moment is, with us, when we have a parish council election it coincides with the district council elections, so if there is a dual election we are using all the same facilities and we share the costs of that particular election. In this instance it was just over a thousand pounds and Codford parish council paid half. Firstly, I am not sure how this would work if we are having all-postal elections, whether the parish would pay their bit, the district council their bit, or whether there would still be a 50/50 split. The other thing I was concerned about was the fact that considering a district and council election cost £1,022 and somehow or other the parish council picked up maybe about £600 of that. The actual estimate I believe was considerably higher than that and they were suggesting that an all-postal election could cost about £1280 and that was just for a parish, so saying it would be simpler and less expensive for the parish was totally ludicrous because obviously they were saying it would cost you more for a single election than for a joint election. […]I am a small Wylye Valley parish council with 700 people and we precept something like £3,500 a year approximately, and we try to just pay for the things we have to and put aside a certain amount for other things. Our council taxes are absolutely enormous in the county and from the district, and basically the parish council try to work within a budget. We have all ranges of income, very poor people, rural people living on fixed incomes, and what we would say is obviously we do not want to bump the price up unnecessarily, and this is one of our big costs. If we have an election then obviously the election costs are significant. If you have only got £3,500 you precept that year then obviously, if you have to pay over £1200, you do appreciate our precept would have to go up considerably to afford that."[155]

95. The issue of recharge to parish or district councils is an issue that Michael Green, of the National Association of Local Councils is concerned about:

"There is no consistency on charging for first-tier elections to principal authorities, and there never has been. […] It is consistency as to whether they charge or not."[156]

Tim Ricketts, Head of Legal Services at the National Association of Local Councils, added:

"The way in which first-tier councils - parish and town councils - finance themselves is by the precept, which, unlike other tiers of local authorities is a direct tax for almost all of their expenditure upon the electorate. That is why the approach on whether or not to recharge for elections across the country being different can cause some councils, particularly those that are near each other but in different districts, some problems. Some are passing the cost directly, therefore, on to their electorate, others do not have to do so. So there is some confusion over whether or not recharges do take place and it would be helpful to our tier for that to be clarified."[157]

96. Michael Green of the National Association of Local Councils argues that the solution is to implement the Electoral Commission's proposal for a central pot to fund elections:

"[…] the recent Electoral Commission recommendations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister were that all administration costs for elections and all tiers of government should be paid out of a central pot, probably administered by local authorities, but given to the Electoral Commission to distribute to pay for local government elections."[158]

He added:

"[…] you have recently had another recommendation from the Electoral Commission on the cycle of elections and it clearly should be the case that if the cycle of election proposals are to be accepted by the Deputy Prime Minister then the proposals in the central pot for the funding of elections need to be accepted in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister at the same time. We would be slightly astonished if in the 2007 local government elections, which will be where the majority of the procedures will happen, there is cycle of elections but there is no central pot for the administration costs."[159]

If administration costs for elections were centrally funded, Michael Green believes it would reduce the number of Councils who try to limit the number of candidates standing in order to prevent an election:

"[…] it is a well known barrier to the reputation of our sector that some councils with a certain amount of subtlety try and limit the number of candidates that stand in their area with the number of seats available in an attempt to ensure that the cost does not fall on them."[160]

97. Chris Leslie MP agrees that all-postal elections cost more, but argues that the higher turnouts produced make the additional cost worthwhile:

"Our estimate is that of course all-postal voting is more expensive and we think it is worth it because it gets greater turnout. My colleague is helpfully pointing out that at the 2003 local elections the cost per voter in an all-postal scheme ranged from £1.42 to £5.00 per elector compared to just over £1.00 for a traditional election, so we do have an estimate of that and we have put aside a certain amount of resource."[161]

Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State for Local and Regional Government, added that the costs were reducing:

"I think it is true to say that Jeremy Beecham, in giving evidence to you a short while ago, emphasised that although there was a greater cost involved in all-postal, the gap between the cost of all-postal and traditional elections was reducing and there is the very obvious point about the benefit to democracy of ensuring a significantly higher level of turnout."[162]

In addition he stressed that extra funding was available:

"It is in the light of the additional costs that we have agreed to make available the funding, the £13 million or so that we made available jointly between DCA, ODPM and the Treasury to ensure that all-postal voting could be conducted, or pilots could be conducted, in June this year without imposing new burdens on local authorities."[163]

In a supplementary letter sent to the Committee on the 26th April, Chris Leslie MP confirmed the extra funding:

"The Government's position on the costs of piloting is that it will meet the additional costs attributable to running the European Parliamentary and local elections on an all-postal basis. The costs of European elections are to be met by central Government through the appropriate Fees and Charges Order. The costs of the local elections will be met initially by the local authorities concerned in the usual way, and the extra costs arising from piloting paid by means of the Local Government Act 2003."[164]

98. All-postal elections are currently more expensive than conventional elections, but we believe that the higher turnouts produced do justify some additional costs. We welcome the Government's commitment to meet extra costs resulting from the use of all-postal voting in the June elections. We recommend that the Government carefully considers the future funding of elections, including the consistency of recharges to first-tier councils, and the Electoral Commission's proposal for a central pot. In response to this report we expect the Government to outline its long term plans for the funding of elections, including the viability of a central pot.

Insurance and Indemnity

99. The conduct of a local election is undertaken by the Returning Officer who can be any senior officer of the local authority, but is normally the Chief Executive or Head of Legal Services. At European Parliamentary elections, statutory responsibility for the region is the responsibility of the Regional Returning Officer (RRO) who is appointed by the Government and almost always an existing Parliamentary Acting Returning Officer (ARO). Although the RRO has responsibility for the region, he uses the services of the other AROs from local authorities within the area. For this purpose, they are designated as Local Returning Officers (LROs). Local Returning Officers have a statutory liability for the conduct of their responsibilities delegated by the RRO.

100. The Government provides general insurance cover to indemnify AROs against many claims, but emphasises the need for AROs to insure themselves for legal fees incurred as a result of an election petition complaining of poor conduct of an election. In local elections, the Council has to take out additional insurance for all eventualities. In European elections, insurance cover is more complicated as the RRO is responsible for the actions of LRO and also of third parties, such as Royal Mail and printers of ballot materials.

101. Jon Sanders, Managing Director of Document Technology Limited, a provider of ballot materials, told us that insurers are reluctant to provide cover because of the large risk and cost of a re-run:

"Initial negotiations with brokers and underwriters indicate that there is a reluctance to directly insure a supplier where he is not acting as sole supplier for the entire area for which the risk is being insured. This could have a significant impact on the way that contracts can be awarded for supply in the CEPE. Proposed "local contracts" like those of last year might not be possible. Our underwriter has suggested that there should be a single catch all indemnity insurance in which all suppliers and the RRO are covered. This would ensure that there is no double insurance but would permit smaller suppliers to enter local contracts. This matter needs the urgent attention of the RRO's and the relevant government departments."[165]

In oral evidence he added:

"I have spent days trying to analyse and decide exactly what the risks are, where they start and where they finish, and I think we suppliers are between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the data we are supplied with and the hard place is my friend at the other end of the table [Mike Lloyd of the Royal Mail]. If we wanted to insure the risk for our own performance, we have to establish a clear start to our liability and we have to establish a clear end to our liability and we cannot do that under the present proposed regulations. The only suggestion that our underwriter has made is that there should be a global insurance for the whole of the election, covering everyone from the local returning officer to the regional returning officer and that the prime purpose is to insure a re-run, not to apportion blame."[166]

Simon Hearn, of Electoral Reform Services, and Keith Brown of De La Rue Security Products agreed:

Simon Hearn: "I would echo what Jon [Sanders of Document Technology Limited] has said, that insurance is a great difficulty and, therefore, we are looking very, very closely at the contractual terms which are going to be connected with these particular contracts. As a company, you cannot open yourself up to a liability of an all-region re-run."[167]

Keith Brown: "I agree with everything that has been said."[168]

102. Roger Morris, East Midlands Returning Officer for the European Parliamentary Elections has concerns about securing insurance, and his personal liability as Returning Officer:

"[…] a couple of us took part in discussions with our potential insurers at the end of last week. There is a real issue around the scale and scope of the insurance that is required. We are hopeful that the company that we are discussing with will provide that insurance, but if not we have asked the Department of Constitutional Affairs to indemnify us because, as we have made clear this morning, many of us are actively working anticipating the responsibilities that legally will come when the orders, acts, bills, etc are passed. […]. The Department have indicated that they will consider that. I think we expect them to cover it if the insurance is not in place imminently. Of course, I have to emphasise that in this respect, just as we are personally appointed so we are personally liable. I think those of us who are returning officers have a strong awareness of that fact."[169]

103. The Minister, Chris Leslie MP, assured the Committee in oral evidence that indemnity and insurance would be provided by the Government:

"My understanding about the insurance is that returning officers working with the Department have been looking at legal liability questions and there is insurance about to be undertaken for that aspect. If there are other areas where indemnity needs to be provided in a case, extreme though it may be, where you may have to have certain areas having re-runs and so forth that is not foreseen in any way, although obviously all possible circumstances need to be thought through the Government would indemnify against those and we would provide that level of assurance to the returning officers, there is that measure of protection for them."[170]

The Chairman sought confirmation that the Government would meet the cost of a re-run:

"Chairman: If there has to be a re-run the Government will pay for it, is that right?

Mr Leslie: Yes.

Chairman: The indemnities for the European ones, if a local election which is held on the same day, on the same system was challenged in the courts and had to be re-run you would also meet the cost of that, would you?

Mr Leslie: That is my understanding, unless there is a particular local failure. I will go back and look at the relative split of responsibility. Clearly Government is paying for the all postal pilot on the basis that these are European constituencies and need to take place on that regional level. There is also obviously a continuing contribution from a local government level because they would have to run local elections anyway. I would want to make sure that each part of government was paying its fair share towards any possible consequences down the line. Perhaps if I drop a note to the Committee on the financial split between local and national government that might be more helpful for you.

Chairman: Fairly quickly because the implications are worrying some of these returning officers." [171]

104. The written note promised by Chris Leslie was received by the Committee on the 26th April, over 5 weeks after the evidence session when the note was promised. The position outlined by the Minister in Committee is changed by the note, which states:

"In the case of liabilities arising in the June elections, for all local elections it is expected that the Local Returning Officer will have recourse to their local insurance policies, which are funded by their local authorities. These policies vary in terms of their coverage, some including re-runs, others not. Should a challenge for a re-run be made, funding the re-run will depend on the circumstances and the reason for the petition. If the fault lies with the LRO, we would expect them to use their own insurance policy, or alternative funds to cover their costs. Should the petition be made on the basis that the pilots were at fault, it will be for LROs to seek recourse to central government for funding. Additional insurance has been taken out to cover the European elections for legal liabilities, including public, products, employers', official liability and libel and slander. However, this does not cover the costs of re-running a European election. It is the Government's intention that the costs of re-running European elections would be met from central funds."[172]

105. In oral evidence the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs assured us that if necessary, the Government would fund an election re-run; the subsequent letter from the Minister indicates that the Government would only fund a re-run if the "pilots were at fault", presumably meaning the legislation was defective. The Minister advises that "for all local elections, it is expected that the Local Returning Officer will have recourse to their local insurance policies, which are funded by their local authorities". It is unfortunate that the assurance given by the Minister in oral evidence was subsequently discovered to be baseless. The Government must ensure that insurance cover has been secured by Returning Officers for the June all-postal pilots. If it has not, we recommend that the Government provide insurance cover because we have no doubt that many Returning Officers will have been confused by the Government's u-turn. The Government must meet with Returning Officers for the proposed 2004 regional referendums as soon as possible to ascertain whether regional insurance should be provided by the Government.

The Postal Service

106. The success of an all-postal election is obviously to some extent dependent on the performance and public perception of the postal service. In the section on delivery points we highlighted evidence we received that revealed concerns as to the security and reliability of the postal service. Lord Rennard, Chief Executive and Nominating Officer of the Liberal Democrats, is sceptical that the Royal Mail will be able to successfully manage large scale all-postal elections:

"The performance of the Royal Mail: this is crucial to the successful deployment of postal elections on a large scale. However, there has been very little systematic analysis of the Royal Mail's ability to cope. For example:

107. Lord Rennard is also concerned about the performance of Royal Mail should industrial action take place during the polling period:

"The testing of the Royal Mail's promises to be able to perform against their actual levels of performance, principally at the Hillrise by-election. This was held on 30th October 2003 in the London Borough of Islington. It was a conventional election but carried out during a time of Royal Mail industrial action. The return of postal ballot papers for this election was affected by the industrial action taking place at the time amongst Royal Mail staff. Of the 164 returned ballot papers, 64 were returned after the deadline. So how well do the Royal Mail's promises to be able to cope with industrial action reflect reality?"[174]

Mike Lloyd of the Royal Mail told us that arrangements are in place:

"[…] we have obviously got the national agreement with the Communication Workers' Union now which has been signed following the disruption we had in the last quarter of last year. Again we have actually got a statement from the Communication Workers' Union supporting the extension of postal voting. We also, as a matter of course, locally as part of the operating fund I mentioned to you have robust contingency funds, again helped by the purple flashes, easily identifiable, so again working with the regional returning officers in particular, we have actually set individual plans, so if there is wildcat action, it can continue to operate, and that is part of the overall operating plan." [175]

108. The Minister, Chris Leslie MP, is confident that the Royal Mail have the experience and ability to manage large numbers of postal votes:

"I asked officials to compare the volume of post between an all-postal election and the Christmas post and, although we are talking about potentially 83 million items of electoral mail in the weeks of the election period, in the Christmas period over a couple of billion items of mail are handled by the Royal Mail. In fact, I think they handle 82 million items per day in the Christmas period, so this is well within the scope of the Royal Mail to cope with that."[176]

Roger Morris, East Midlands Returning Officer for the European Parliamentary elections agrees:

"[…] we have had some discussions, including particularly, again, Mr Crawford and myself, with the Royal Mail representatives. At national level they are taking the issue very seriously and arrangements are in hand to put in place the capacity locally to do that job. I have no reason to think there will be any difficulty from the security side with the Royal Mail. After all, they handle a lot of secure material in the ordinary course of every day. I think I would echo the concerns that the two previous witnesses put to you about vulnerable points in the life of the ballot paper, so to speak, once it has left the hands of the returning officer or the original starting point, because, clearly, it is possible to see how things can go wrong. But I think we need to have a sense of proportion about this. Most of us are saying that we do not have a lot of evidence of concern or problems on the ground."[177]

109. Jon Sanders, Managing Director of Document Technology Limited, a company which produces electoral materials, is however concerned that Royal Mail do not have robust audit trails in place:

"The interface between the producer and the Royal Mail is very unsatisfactory, and could lead to disenfranchisement claims being "passed on" to innocent producers. 2002/3: the items were presented to Royal Mail with the usual listings and dockets. The signature on the docket merely confirms that the Royal Mail will charge for the number of items specified and the completeness of the mailing is assumed by Royal Mail, but no responsibility is assumed by Royal Mail for completeness. This means that if Royal Mail loses some items it can claim that the mailing received was incomplete, and no check was made at the point of handover (other than to sample items for the weight claimed). This interface is the subject of much concern, and we are being advised to produce a comprehensive listing of the contents of each mailbag, to be handed to the Royal Mail with an invitation to agree the contents, and to disclaim any bag not so checked at the point of handover. The point at issue is that all through phases 1 and 2 [production of electoral materials], an audit trail maintains control of the number of ballot paper envelopes issued, only to be lost when they reach Royal Mail. In any claim of disenfranchisement this "fuzzy" interface could allow Royal Mail to avoid liability even if the items were lost whilst in their care."[178]

Mike Lloyd of Royal Mail disagrees, he told us that the Royal Mail had introduced a number of measures specifically to manage the postal-voting process:

"As far as the ballot papers are concerned that actually come back which are posted in a post box or collected from elsewhere, again they go via the local office through to the regional returning officer. We have also introduced, as part of the action from the May elections, the final sweep for the four postal regions which is basically a final sweep of the mail centres between 7.30 and 9 o'clock to ensure that all the ballot papers that are actually posted are actually taken from the box and leave the mail centre so that we can be sure there are no outstanding votes in that mail centre. […] in terms of despatching them, we have agreed the timetable so that we make sure that the postal packs, for example, will always go out after the electoral addresses. That is one of the first things that we actually did. Again the recommendation that we put and the timeframe that we put is that the items go out and are delivered to us on a specific day and we will start delivering them the next day and guarantee to deliver them within three days following receipt from the local authority."[179]

He added:

"[…] one of the main things we have introduced on everything, including the cages as they actually go into the mail centres, including the envelopes themselves with purple flashes which, one, means we can easily identify the items and, two, if we need to identify and extract any items for any particular reason we are able to do that because they are obviously distinctive, so from a security point of view, as soon as they actually reach our regional distribution centres, through to our mail centres, through to delivery offices, the same sort of process will be used in terms of this purple flash, whether it be on a cage, whether it be on a bag or whether it be on an individual item."[180]

110. Simon Hearn, of Electoral Reform Services, another electoral material production company, believes the postal voting process could be tested through the use of "seeds":

"Ordinarily we would add seeds into mailings that we do. […] Our own addresses, but because of the exacting nature of the legislation we have got, we cannot legally do that. It would not be good for me to receive an extra couple of ballot papers from such and such an election because the postal docket would reflect that two extra ballot papers went out rather than the exact number, so it is very difficult to monitor in that way. However, I would just say that in our own private elections (sic) that we would conduct, we would add in our own extra addresses. I do not know whether local authorities perhaps use friendly staff to say, "Have you received your ballot paper yet? You live in the area, so have you got it?" I know certainly when we have conducted postal pilots, we will get, "My granny received it in wherever, so I know they have arrived", and that is the sort of monitoring you can do certainly on the outgoing."[181]

He added:

"It is a monitor of how Royal Mail are performing, but whether it is beneficial - there are ways of adding seeds presumably where you would not have to put a ballot paper in, you put a letter in, add them into the mailing. It is the problem where, come the verification, what does the postal docket say as to exactly how many were sent out if there is a challenge, those sorts of processes. If you are having to explain that one or two extra items went out, does that add doubt into a process?"[182]

111. We recognise that the Royal Mail has a great deal of experience in processing secure post in large volumes over concentrated periods of time. However we are concerned that the public may not view the postal service as reliable or secure. It is therefore vital that the Royal Mail's audit trail is rigorous and transparent. In order to monitor the performance of the Royal Mail during an election, we recommend that the Government introduces seeded electoral papers. The Electoral Commission should include reference to the performance of the Royal Mail, based on these seeded papers, in its evaluations of elections. The independent regulator, the Postal Services Commission (Postcomm), should also assess the Royal Mail's performance and set targets which require 100% secure and accurate delivery of ballot papers. In response to this report we recommend the Government outlines what research it has conducted into the use of seeds; or other audit processes to ensure the reliability and security of the Royal Mail's handling of postal votes.


112. Some parts of the country have piloted all-postal elections since 2000. At the next General Election, all voters will have to use conventional systems of voting. Several witnesses told us they are concerned about the impact of such changes on voters:

Malcolm Dumper, Executive Director of the Association of Electoral Administrators: "I think the biggest significant issue where pilot schemes have taken place - not just postal but electronic as well - is where people are happy with that process, they see it more convenient, but then may have to return to traditional voting methods. That is more the case in those authorities that have conducted electronic pilots, where people have found that very convenient and modern but then have to return to a traditional voting method at the next parliamentary election."[183]

Sam Younger, Chairman of the Electoral Commission: "[…]. It is very striking from those particularly who have undertaken all-postal voting, particularly over a sustained period, that they are very worried about the implications of going back to other methods. I have to say that I think, in a sense, that is in the nature of the beast when you are in a period where you are experimenting and looking at different methods. In an ideal world, we would take what we have learned from the pilots, roll out the underpinning legislative framework that you need and then roll it out; but life is not as simple as that, and we recognise it but nevertheless it is important that we do so."[184]

John Pitt, Corporate Director of Resources, Wakefield Council: "[…]. I was previously at Doncaster and responsible for the pilot that took place there in 2000 with the Conisbrough by-election and that went extremely well, turnout doubled, but there was undoubtedly a degree of confusion with the electorate when at the next election you revert to a traditional voting system. I think that is inevitable."[185]

Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman, Local Government Association: "I think everybody would prefer clarity sooner on this. Colleagues that I have spoken to in the North West and in Yorkshire and Humberside would like to get on and have postal polls. It is also the case, of course, that in some places, like Gateshead, for example, they have had postal ballots for about three years, and in Newcastle (where I come from) we had an all-postal ballot last year. If they were to be changed back to ordinary voting, I think, this would be confusing. There are authorities in Yorkshire, Humberside and the North West which have also piloted, so a change back could complicate matters for them."[186]

113. However Ken Ritchie of the Electoral Reform Society argues that electors will cope, provided they are informed of the changes:

"The evidence suggests that voters in other parts of the world and, indeed, in other parts of Britain can cope with using different electoral systems without any great problem but it is important that there is as strong an educational campaign and information campaign beforehand, so that, for example, where it is an all-out election, people do know, if it is a three member ward, that they have three votes and that they do not just cast one."[187]

Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State for Local and Regional Government, agrees:

"[…] provided the issues are presented clearly and there is a real issue there about ensuring that the options available in the respective elections are well presented and clearly presented, and we are very keen to ensure that happens then I do not feel anxiety about this."[188]

114. The use of different electoral systems for different elections is no doubt confusing for all involved, although we accept that different systems are inevitable when piloting new electoral methods. Nevertheless we recommend that the Government makes a firm decision as to the future form of electoral systems, and implements any changes as soon as possible to prevent further confusion, and potentially lower voter turnout. In the meantime it is vital that the Government, Electoral Commission and local authorities, take steps, including use of the media, to ensure that all electors are aware of the method(s) of voting in their area in each election. In response to this report we recommend the Government outline what promotional strategies have been implemented.

Timing of elections

115. In an all-postal voting election, electors will receive ballot papers up to three weeks before polling day, and some will vote immediately. An unintended consequence is therefore that candidates must start their canvassing campaigns earlier in order to contact electors before the start of the three week polling period. We received evidence from politicians that for elections held in May, this means starting canvassing in February or March. They argue that campaigning at this time of year is harder because it is before the clocks go forward at the onset of British Summer Time. Councillor Suzanne Fletcher told us:

"We found it extremely difficult [canvassing]. We had to start so much earlier to make sure that campaigning was completed by the time the postal ballots came out, and there were several difficulties with that. The first was that we were canvassing before the clocks changed, so we could do less canvassing because you cannot canvass in the dark."[189]

She added:

"The other issue that we have found with the postal ballot is that, because of the rolling registration, we had not got the names for the March and April people going on to the electoral roll filtered through into our system in time for those people to be called on, so quite a number of people did not get called on and we could not hit that point."[190]

Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local Government Association, agrees, and proposes that elections should move to June:

"There are practical difficulties and I have suggested and the Association has suggested that one thing which needs to concern us for the future is the date of local elections. Given that the timetable becomes elongated for elections the prospect of knocking on doors in the freezing, dark March nights is somewhat less appealing than doing it a bit later when the clocks go forward and therefore a June election makes it more comfortable for the canvassers and canvassed. We will be recommending that to the Commission and we have asked the Commission to look at the date for local elections in the light of that."[191]

Councillor Fletcher is not convinced that moving elections to June will help:

"I have thought about this. A lot of our deliverers in particular, and party workers, go on holiday at the Spring Bank Holiday and start going on their full family holidays in June, and that is going to cause serious concerns across all the parties."[192]

Other political parties argue however that Councillor Fletcher's holiday concerns could also apply to the Easter break for May elections. They support the idea of moving elections to June:

Geoff Forse, Green Party: "It is not so much a problem with June I have not heard anyone complaining about that.[193] […] June is not an issue."[194]

Grant Thoms, Scottish National Party: "I think it is more helpful to have elections held in the summer months when evenings are lighter and people can get out and engage with voters. I have no problem with that at all."[195]

Mark Croucher, UK Independence Party: "Similarly with June as a specific date we do not have a problem with the particular month."[196]

116. We recommend that if all-postal voting is used in future elections, the Government and Electoral Commission consider holding elections in June so that canvassing can be done in lighter evenings, encouraging greater engagement with the electorate.   

149   Q60, HC 400-III [Bill Crawford, Elections Officer, Sunderland City Council] Back

150   Q60, HC 400-III [John Pitt, Corporate Director, Resources, Wakefield Council] Back

151   Q61, HC 400-III [Roger Morris, East Midlands Regional Returning Officer, European Parliamentary elections] Back

152   Q131, HC 400-III [Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local Government Association] Back

153   Ev 48, HC 400-II [Westbury Town Council] Back

154   Ev 15, HC 400-II [Steeple Ashton Parish Council] Back

155   Q281-2, HC 400-III [Councillor Rosemary Wyeth, Chairman, Codford Parish Council] Back

156   Q109-10, HC 400-III [Michael Green, Policy Officer, National Association of Local Councils] Back

157   Q111, HC 400-III [Tim Ricketts, Head of Legal Services, National Association of Local Councils] Back

158   Q115, HC 400-III [Michael Green, Policy Officer, National Association of Local Councils] Back

159   Q134, HC 400-III [Michael Green, Policy Officer, National Association of Local Councils] Back

160   Q115, HC 400-III [Michael Green, Policy Officer, National Association of Local Councils] Back

161   Q420, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs] Back

162   Q420, HC 400-III [Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State, Local and Regional Government, ODPM] Back

163   Q421, HC 400-III [Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State, Local and Regional Government, ODPM] Back

164   Ev 91, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs] Back

165   Ev 35, HC 400-II [Document Technology Limited] Back

166   Q269, HC 400-III [Jon Sanders, Managing Director of Document Technology Limited] Back

167   Q269, HC 400-III [Simon Hearn, Electoral Reform Services] Back

168   Q269, HC 400-III [Keith Brown, De La Rue Security Products] Back

169   Q102-3, HC 400-III [Roger Morris, East Midlands Returning Officer, European Parliamentary elections] Back

170   Q387, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs] Back

171   Q388 and Q391, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs] Back

172   Ev 91, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs]


173   Ev 47, HC 400-II [Liberal Democrats] Back

174   Ev 47, HC 400-II [Liberal Democrats] Back

175   Q263, HC 400-III [Mike Lloyd, Director of Government Services, Royal Mail] Back

176   Q416, HC 400-III [Chris Leslie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs] Back

177   Q56, HC 400-III [Roger Morris, East Midlands Regional Returning Officer, European Parliamentary elections] Back

178   Ev 35, HC 400-II [Document Technology Limited] Back

179   Q264-5, HC 400-III [Mike Lloyd, Director of Government Services, Royal Mail] Back

180   Q257, HC 400-III [Mike Lloyd, Director of Government Services, Royal Mail] Back

181   Q266-7, HC 400-III [Simon Hearn, Head of Ballot Department, Electoral Reform Services] Back

182   Q268, HC 400-III [Simon Hearn, Head of Ballot Department, Electoral Reform Services] Back

183   Q17, HC 400-III [Malcolm Dumper, Chief Executive, Association of Electoral Administrators] Back

184   Q18, HC 400-III [Sam Younger, Chairman, Electoral Commission] Back

185   Q50, HC 400-III [John Pitt, Corporate Director of Resources, Wakefield Council] Back

186   Q108, HC 400-III [Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman, Local Government Association] Back

187   Q177, HC 400-III [Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society] Back

188   Q397, HC 400-III [Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State, Local and Regional Government, ODPM] Back

189   Q291, HC 400-III [Councillor Suzanne Fletcher MBE, Stockton on Tees Borough Council] Back

190   Q292, HC 400-III [Councillor Suzanne Fletcher MBE, Stockton on Tees Borough Council] Back

191   Q136, HC 400-III [Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local Government Association] Back

192   Q292, HC 400-III [Councillor Suzanne Fletcher MBE, Stockton on Tees Borough Council] Back

193   Q320, HC 400-III [Geoff Forse, Elections Co-ordinator, Green Party, England and Wales] Back

194   Q321, HC 400-III [Geoff Forse, Elections Co-ordinator, Green Party, England and Wales] Back

195   Q320, HC 400-III [Grant Thoms, Head of Campaign Unit, Scottish National Party] Back

196   Q320, HC 400-III [Mark Croucher, Policy research Team and Press Officer, UK Independence Party] Back

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Prepared 20 May 2004