6 Resources and data matching|
70. The White Paper provides a framework, but much
of the detail of how individual registration will be administered
remains to be filled in. Local authorities and the Association
of Electoral Administrators stressed the need to resolve much
of this uncertainty within a tight timescale. The Government's
estimate of the cost of implementing IER is £108.3 million,
and the Government states in the White Paper that it "is
committed to fully funding the costs to local authorities".
However, the White Paper suggests that the move to individual
electoral registration may become cheaper over time as "IER
also opens up the possibility that the process for registration
may be more efficient".
71. Jocelyn McCarley, from the Electoral Office for
Northern Ireland, told us that the move to individual registration
in Northern Ireland put EROs under intense pressure, despite the
transition being fully funded by Government. She stated "we
certainly had sufficient resources to bring in individual registration.
I think the problem was we ... underestimated the amount of resources
we would need in terms of staff. The volume of forms coming into
the office was a bit of shock; it all needed data input".
Jocelyn McCarley also told us that EROs in Northern Ireland did
not have sufficient resources to keep chasing individuals who
have not responded to requests for information.
72. There is evidence that some EROs are already
struggling to perform their statutory duties. Electoral Commission
data shows that in 2010, ten EROs failed to ensure the completeness
and accuracy of electoral registration records met agreed standards.
Eight EROs also failed to meet the standard for doorstep canvassing
in 2010, and three of those have failed to achieve that standard
three years in a row.
Michel Saminaden, speaking on behalf of local authority Chief
Executives, or SOLACE, told us that the move to individual registration
would increase the number of registration forms, and would put
a strain on EROs' already stretched resources "there is no
doubt, because we will be talking with many tens of thousands
73. We received evidence from local authority staff
involved in three of the 20 pilot schemes trialling the comparison
of data from electoral registers with government databases that
IER would require very different skills and people from the current
"gone are the days of the gangmaster driving
the team of canvassers to bang on as many doors as possible and
get a result, and in comes a much different level of skills around
data matching and examining IT systems and so on".
"we will need a lot more technical staff
who can manage all the data matching, rather than, as now, staff
experienced in elections and electoral law".
74. John Turner, speaking on behalf of electoral
administrators, raised concerns that the lack of detail from Government
means that the timescale for commissioning and implementing the
relevant IT systems needed for IER is very tight: "as every
month passes, it is going to get extremely difficult to ensure
that the system is totally workable and that the necessary IT
systems that will support that system are in place".
The AEA has written that
"given the scale of the work to be undertaken
to deliver the necessary infrastructure including the IT, business
processes, data protocols, guidance, and form design, it is essential
that the draft secondary legislation is available for scrutiny
whilst the Bill is still in the UK Parliament
it is vital to bring into effect in sufficient time any provisions
(whether in primary or secondary legislation) necessary to enable
work to commence on developing and testing that infrastructure".
75. We recommend that the Government publish the
information, including draft secondary legislation, that electoral
administrators need to deliver the necessary infrastructure for
individual registration as soon as possible after the Individual
Electoral Registration Bill is introduced.
76. The Electoral Commission has argued for powers
to assist or sanction EROs who repeatedly fail to discharge their
statutory duties, to help ensure that the transition to IER meets
minimum standards across Great Britain.
Any inconsistencies would become more apparent in future given
the larger number of parliamentary constituencies likely to cross
local authority boundaries
"there are now some spectacular complications
... that issue of consistency is crucial because ... some very
small administrative issues could result in a differentiation
within particular wards that will create constituencies".
77. The Minister told us "I think it is fair
to say the Electoral Commission are quite keen for a bigger role.
At the moment, that is unproven".
We believe that the Electoral Commission must play a key role
in ensuring that IER is implemented consistently, and that may
require effective powers of sanction to do so. We conclude
that there is a strong case for the Electoral Commission to be
given powers to intervene where EROs consistently fail to meet
agreed performance standards.
78. The Government has committed to funding the transition
to IER which is likely, in the short term, to be resource-intensive
as EROs aim to contact and register an estimated 46 million individuals,
as opposed to 25 million households. The Association of Electoral
Administrators has written that "the successful implementation
of the new system will depend on the relevant funding going directly
to electoral services. Any funding needs to continue post 2015
and should not simply be seen as one-off capital funding".
Michel Saminaden of SOLACE has also suggested the need for "some
sort of ring-fencing" to ensure that money made available
to local authorities for IER is not diverted elsewhere. We
recommend that the Government ensure that the funding it provides
to support local authorities with the transition to IER is ring-fenced
for this purpose.
79. The concept behind the 20 data matching pilots
currently under way is "to test whether EROs can use public
databases to identify people eligible to vote but missing from
the register so they can invite them to register".
The Government hopes to assess early in 2012 whether these schemes
should be rolled out more widely.
80. Representatives of three of the local authorities
involved in the data matching pilots told us that "for all
of us ... it is very, very labour intensive".
All three authorities had hired additional staff to help run data
matching, boosting staffing levels in their electoral registration
sections by 50-100% for the duration of the pilot. If it is to
be successful, additional resource will be needed not only to
match data, but also to follow it up with letters, and house enquiries
81. Julian Bassham, Electoral Services Manager for
the London Borough of Southwark told us that data matching "has
been more successful for us at this stage in telling us what we
do know rather than what we don't know ... At the moment it does
not look, from our side, like the DWP data will necessarily answer
The Electoral Commission has stated that it wishes to see further
options for identifying unregistered electors "not only in
the event that data matching is less successful than we hope,
but also to deal with 'at risk' groups who are less easily picked
up through the data matching approach".
82. The problems are partly technical. Addresses
may not match between records because they have been input differently,
or because house names have changed.
In Southwark, 25% of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) records
could not be matched to properties in the borough as known to
the local authority.
Without nationality information, it is impossible to know if someone
is likely to be eligible to vote or not. We also heard that people
are not removed from the DWP database when they die or leave the
country, meaning that large numbers of records on the database
are essentially inaccurate and confusing to electoral administrators.
83. The Minister told us that Government and the
Electoral Commission would have to look at the data generated
by all 22 data matching pilots before making a decision on the
effectiveness of data matching. He stated
The Electoral Commission, according to the secondary
legislation, has to have those evaluations ready in March, so
what we are going to have to be taking a decision on before we
introduce the legislation is whether we think there is sufficient
evidence available to put the powers into the legislation to roll
out data-matching, if we wanted to.
The evidence we have received, however, suggests
that data matching will be of limited effectiveness, especially
in identifying potential electors. We recommend that the Electoral
Commission publish its evaluations of the pilots before second
reading of the Bill, in order to inform debate.
84. Access to the data in the first place has not
always been straightforward. Local authorities participating in
the pilots have not had the power to require access to data. Darren
Whitney of Stratford-on-Avon District Council told us that part
of their pilot had been delayed as they had not received any data
from the Ministry of Defence, even though the terms of the pilot
agreed with the Government involved access to data from their
Joint Administration and ANITE databases.
The Minister for Personnel in the Ministry of Defence, Rt Hon
Andrew Robathan MP, wrote to us on 12 October 2011 stating that
data had been provided to Stratford-on-Avon in August.
In fact the relevant data was only received by Stratford later
in October. Data matching can only be a success if local authorities
are provided with the information they need in a timely and helpful
way. We regret that the Ministry of Defence has taken so long
to co-operate with at least one of the data matching pilots.
This suggests that there may be a need for better central co-ordination
and ministerial oversight of the data matching programme.
65 Cm 8108, para 6 Back
Cm 8108, para 6 Back
Q 176 Back
Q 176 Back
Ev 104 Back
Electoral Commission, Report on performance standards for
Electoral Registration Officers in Great Britain,
Third analysis of performance,
April 2011, p 14, para 2.12 Back
Q 176 Back
Q 86 Back
Q 86 Back
Q 166 Back
Ev 92 Back
Ev 95 Back
Q 190 Back
Q 284 Back
Ev 94 Back
Cm 8108, para 20 Back
Q 62 Back
Q 66 Back
Ev 103 Back
Q 75 Back
Q 74 Back
Qq 70-71 Back
Q 245 Back
Q 72 Back
Ev w38 Back