Martin Ford 13 March 2020

Government postpones council elections

Local government elections due to take place on 7 May have been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government’s announcement, a U-turn on its position this morning, follows calls from within the sector and the Electoral Commission.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: ‘We will bring forward legislation to postpone local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections until May next year.

‘We will also work with the devolved administrations to ensure that they have the necessary powers to do the same.’

The decision has been broadly welcomed by local government, including shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne and the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA).

Chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr James Jamieson, said: 'The swift decision is very helpful.

'Councils will now continue to put all of their efforts into supporting their local communities as the nation tackles COVID-19.'

AEA chief executive, Peter Stanyon, added: 'We believe that the decision to postpone local elections on 7 May is the right one.

'This is uncharted territory and our members have been raising significant concerns about the safe delivery of these elections.

'Our aim now is to find out full details about the cancellation and rescheduling of these elections, as well as the approach to be taken for any unscheduled polls that may be called in the coming months.'

Solace elections spokesperson, Louise Round, told The MJ: ‘It’s totally the right decision, there would have been too many risks to go ahead. It would have distracted form the core business of protecting the most vulnerable people in the community.’

Chief executive of the LGiU think-tank, Jonathan Carr-West, said: ‘The LGiU along with many across the sector have called for this measure due to fears about capacity to deliver in the midst of a public health crisis.

‘If we can’t guarantee that elections can be delivered securely, safely and accurately it’s better to postpone and decisive action was needed earlier rather than later.’

However, Mr Carr-West raised questions over issues such as councillors who were planning to stand down in May, future by-elections and elections for the two shadow councils in Northamptonshire, where two unitary authorities are due to be created next year.

A Northamptonshire CC spokesman said: 'We've been made aware.

'Exactly what this means for reorganisation isn't yet known.

'Dealing with coronavirus is a key priority for us at the moment.

'We will await further guidance from government on this.'

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