Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420-423)|
17 MARCH 2004
Q420 Mr Clelland: Can I ask what research
you have done on the costs of all-postal elections as opposed
to conventional elections? Would you not agree with the Electoral
Commission that there ought to be a government funded central
pot to pay for elections, particularly as this can be fairly burdensome
on local councils like parish and town councils?
Mr Leslie: 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. As I said at the outset, that helped provide
an envelope determining how many regions we could pilot in and
we feel we can afford four regions.
Mr Raynsford: 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
Q421 Mr Clelland: Oh, absolutely, I would
accept that point, but we have had evidence from the National
Association of Local Councils that it is a particular problem
for first tier councils. Is that something you have looked at?
Mr Raynsford: 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.
Q422 Chris Mole: The big worry I think
a lot of people have in the back of their mind is the question
of the number of ballot papers that may be available in houses
in multiple occupation or student accommodation or something like
that. Are there any steps that you are thinking about taking to
help address that particular situation?
Mr Leslie: In some of the pilots
that have already taken place we have learned quite a few lessons.
That is one of the benefits of piloting. In Brighton and Hove
the returning officers there had a particular team that went around
to large establishments, student accommodation, houses in multiple
occupation and so forth, hand delivering, making sure that they
identified the particular voter if they were available and so
forth, and that was a much more proactive measure of getting the
ballot paper to the person in houses in multiple occupation. We
have suggested that regional returning officers look at that best
practice and take that up and that is something that we have put
in the policy paper circulated to the returning officers so that
there is good practice there that can be followed and built upon.
Q423 Chairman: Is there a tricky question
we should have asked you?
Mr Leslie: You could always ask
the question, "What can we do to persuade the House of Lords
to recognise and wake up to the fact that four regions really
is an excellent idea?", and I might be able to think of an
answer to that, but perhaps that is a partisan point to our own
Chairman: On that note can I thank you
very much for your evidence.