William Eichler 06 December 2017

Electoral reforms required to avert future crises, commission says

Electoral reforms required to avert future crises, commission says

‘Urgent action’ is needed to minimise the risks to the delivery of well-run elections in the future, an independent commission says.

A new report from the Electoral Commission has said more needs to be done to address the increasing challenges Returning Officers are facing in delivering elections.

The report applauds the work done by local Returning Officers in this year’s snap General Election.

However, it notes problems in a small number of areas — Plymouth and Newcastle-under-Lyme, for example — meant voters did not receive the service they should be able to expect.

The main issues highlighted in The Administration of the June 2017 UK General Election which the Commission believes need addressing were the reduced resources of Returning Officers and electoral administrators, and the increasing loss of skilled professionals from local authority elections teams.

The Commission also called for the full implementation of the recommendations made by the UK’s Law Commissions in 2016 to reform and simplify our complex and fragmented framework of electoral law.

‘Like all of the public sector, local authorities are under increasing financial pressure and unexpected elections can put significant extra strain on them,’ said Sir John Holmes, chair of the Electoral Commission.

‘It is important to ensure that they have the resources and expertise they need to go on running our elections well.

‘Recommended changes to electoral law would also make our electoral processes simpler and more efficient. I urge the UK’s governments to give them urgent consideration.’

Commenting on the Commission's report, Cat Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, said: 'The Conservatives cannot ignore mounting concerns that electoral services are at breaking point as a result of their austerity agenda.

'Extreme Tory cuts have left local authority election teams without the necessary staff and resources to deliver a quality service for voters during election time.

'Ministers need to address this crisis by carrying out a full review of the delivery and funding of electoral services as a matter of urgency.'

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