This supplement to the LGA’s Spending Review submission sets out further proposals which we would like to work with the Government on implementing in relation to the Cabinet Office.
Stronger local democracy
Elections are a vital part of local and national democracy and councils have shown the incredible efforts they will go to ensure that electors are able to cast their votes freely and safely in person or via post or proxy. Electoral Commission research published in June 2021 showed that 80 per cent of people are confident that elections in the UK are well run. Councils are rightly proud of the service they provide to local electors and wish to continue to deliver a high-level elections experience which electors and candidates can have confidence in.
May 2021 saw councils deliver the most complex set of elections in the challenging context of the pandemic. Due to the conditions of the pandemic, Returning Officers had to go to extraordinary lengths to find appropriate polling places including commercial venues, and open spaces like car parks and community spaces and recruit additional staff to act as ‘Covid marshals’ ensuring voters were able to cast their vote safely.
The Elections Bill currently going through Parliament will introduce new responsibilities such as:
- The requirement to offer free Voter Cards to residents and considerable additional complexity to the administration of elections.
- A series of new and complex requirements like varying voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens resident in the UK, introducing the three-year limit on postal votes.
- Additional registrations from overseas electors as the 15-year rule is abolished.
The Elections Bill will require councils and electoral administrators to implement a range of new requirements, many of which will add complexity to the system and require additional funding, capacity and training. The Government has already confirmed that costs associated with the provision of free Voter Cards will be funded centrally. However, to ensure the resilience of the electoral system, the Government needs to go further to build capacity and maintain and strengthen specialist registration and electoral expertise to implement these requirements.
For us to be able to deliver, we are calling for the Government to provide funding for the additional costs related to any of the provisions within the Elections Bill.