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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting 21 September 2011

 

Report of the Returning Officer/Chief Executive

 

Review of Polling Districts, Polling Places and Polling Stations

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To receive the Returning Officer's review of polling districts, polling places and polling stations in accordance with the Electoral Administration Act 2006.

Recommendations

That the review be considered by Cabinet, and referred to Council for approval.

Reasons for the Recommendations

To progress the statutory review of polling districts, polling places and polling stations as identified in Section 18C and Schedule A1 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.

 

Background

2.             Under the Representation of the People Act 1983, the Council has a duty to divide its area into polling districts and to designate a polling place for each polling district.  The Council must keep these arrangements under review.

3.             A comprehensive review of polling districts, polling places and polling stations was completed in December 2007.  Further reviews must take place every 4 years. Therefore in order to comply with the regulations this review must be completed by the end of December 2011.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             A report outlining the process for conducting the review together with a project plan was considered by Cabinet on 1 December 2010.  Cabinet resolved

·               T H A T the Chief Executive be authorised to carry out a review of polling districts, polling places and polling stations in consultation with relevant stakeholders and a report be submitted to full Council following completion of the review.

·               T H A T the timetable as contained within the project plan attached to the report be approved for the carrying out of the review.

 

5.             The review commenced in June 2011 following the scheduled elections in March and May.  The key statutory requirements for the review are:

·               To publish a Notice of Review (30 June 2011 Copy attached at Appendix 1)

·               To consult with other Returning Officers and publish responses within 30 days of receipt (21 June 2011 - no response received from Cardiff Council)

·               To consult with other stakeholders including electors, local political parties and councillors, and people with particular expertise in relation to access to premises or facilities for people with different forms of disability (28 June 2011)

·               To publish draft recommendations and send to all consultees to invite further comments (1 to 16 September 2011)

·               The Council must give reasons for its decisions in the review and publish all documentation pertaining to the review.

6.             The aims of the review were to ensure that:

·               all electors in the Vale of Glamorgan have such reasonable facilities for voting as are practical in the circumstances taking account of cost;

·               polling places are suitable for use by all sections of the community;

·               so far as is reasonable and practicable, the polling places in the Vale of Glamorgan are accessible to all electors, including those who are disabled;

·               polling places are located in an area of the corresponding polling district unless special circumstances make it desirable to designate an area that is wholly or partly outside the polling district.

7.             In order to meet the aims of the review the criteria for assessing each polling place (i.e. the building or area in which polling stations will be located) included:

·               Geographical size of polling district (i.e. the geographical area created by the subdivision of a ward into smaller parts)

·               Size of electorate (including and excluding postal voters)

·               Distance of polling place from all areas of the polling district

·               Accessibility of the polling place to disabled electors

·               Public transport access to alternatives

·               Cost of arrangements (must be cost effective and demonstrate value for money)

·               Where feasible the need to minimise disruption caused to schools

·               Review of the use of portakabins (given their cost and accessibility issues)

·               Suitability of the polling place in terms of the space required to effectively conduct polling.

8.             Inevitably there will be compromise as rarely are all criteria fully met.  Also given the geography of the Vale whilst there are some compelling arguments for reducing the use of portakabins this could disadvantage more remote communities and possibly impact on voter turnout notwithstanding the availability of postal votes.

9.             Overall few changes are proposed.  This reflects a number of factors:

·               Relatively few responses were submitted following the initial widespread publicity (public notice, consultation letters, website).  These are addressed later in the report.

·               Generally existing arrangements have stood the test of time and work well from a voter perspective.  This conclusion is supported by the results of an online questionnaire hosted on the Councils website for eight weeks between June and August 2011 (13th June to 5th August) is generated 303 responses which were very positive of current arrangements (A more detailed analysis of the survey is attached in Appendix 2).

·               Whilst the Council is obliged to conduct a comprehensive review, polling stations/places can be changed at any time provided that official notice is given and that there is sufficient time for the issue of poll cards prior to an election.  Internal monitoring systems have been improved to ensure that there will be close scrutiny of each polling place/stations following every election.

·               Given the significance and scale of next years elections the approach I have taken is that unless there is an overwhelming case for change the "status quo" prevails.  The 2012 elections are the most challenging in terms of delivery and I want to minimise the potential for confusion or disruption to electors.

10.        Appendix 3 is a summary table of the proposed changes.

11.      Appendix 4 lists the representations initially received together with a table summarising our response.

12.        It should be noted that a number of comments were received prior to the review.  Those individuals/organisations making representations were specifically consulted as part of the review and Appendix 5 indicates whether further responses were submitted.

13.        Appendix 6 lists further representations received during the consultation on the draft proposals between 1st and 14th September together with our response.  Any late submissions will be reported to Cabinet.  Having regard to the further submissions it is proposed to make one change to Appendix 3, as follows:

·               Given the circumstances surrounding Alexandra Gardens in Barry and the comments from local members it is proposed to use Romilly School for the Illtyd District BCO keeping one polling station but increasing the number of poll clerks to meet Electoral Commission guidelines of staff per electorate.  The intention for Buttrills District EAO is to use Ysgol Sant Curig and this option will be progressed in consultation with ward members and the school.  Our preliminary investigations indicate that locating a portakabin on the Alexandra Gardens site is problematic particularly should there be building works on site next May.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

14.        The costs of the review have been met from within existing budgets.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        Section 16 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 requires each authority to keep their polling place and districts under review.  This work must be done no later than 31 December 2011.

16.        Under Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, an Electoral Registration Officer has a duty to maintain an electoral register and to conduct an annual canvass.  The new register must be published on 1 December each year.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.        There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.        Accessibility to polling stations is an important issue.  The review has had regard, as far as is practicable to equality of access and needs of voters.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.        Electoral Registration has links to the Community Leadership corporate priority and the following improvement objective:

·               To provide leadership in representing and promoting the interests of the local community and engage effectively with citizens and stakeholders.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.        this report is a matter for Executive Decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.        As set out above in paragraph 5.  Copies of the consultation letters are attached at Appendix 7.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.        Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Cabinet Report 1 December 2010.

 

 

 

Contact Officer

John Maitland Evans

Returning Officer and Chief Executive

01446 709302

Officers Consulted

 

Responsible Officer:

John Maitland Evans

Returning Officer and Chief Executive

 

 

 

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