It’s been just two and a half years since the last snap election in the UK, and now we have another coming on 12 December just in time for Christmas. This election was perhaps a little less surprising and many would argue that this Parliament has become stuck. Failure to reach a resolution on Brexit has contributed to a stymied agenda on all other matters, too. For local government, this has meant inaction on crucial issues such as sustainable funding for local public services and real reform for adult social care, that needed addressing some time ago.
The pressures of keeping democracy going
Of course, on top of Brexit preparations (see our recent Members only briefing on council chiefs’ view of preparations ) and financial and policy uncertainty, a general election puts additional pressure on councils. As electoral administrators, local authorities are responsible for maintaining the electoral register as well as running the election itself. This will be the second UK-wide election in nine months and for the many English councils who held local elections in 2019, this will be their third. The Association of Electoral Administrators have issued a statement today highlighting issues and they have shared stories about the important work of electoral officers on our blog and for our podcast .
Electoral officers will already have been on the phones lining up polling venues for potential dates. Given the festive time of year, many traditional polling places may be booked out, so it will be more important than ever to make sure the voters know where to go. According to the BBC, Glasgow has already run into booking clashes for their favoured count venue.
Our friends at Democracy Club will once again be running their polling station finder and other information portals for electors, so if you get a request for polling station information please send it or find out how to share that information.
All council officers and members will need to be mindful, too of pre-election publicity and other legal considerations – and we have updated our electoral issues briefing (Members only briefing).
Staying safe and well in the election period
And there is pressure, too for councillors. Traditionally the foot soldiers of any elections, elected members and others will be tramping the pavements and knocking on doors on darkened streets. A wintry election brings its own safety concerns, but this election may prove particularly contentious and many MPs, candidates, councillors and other public figures have received threats and many have and will receive abuse online. We have developed guidance to help councillors stay safe and well which should be particularly pertinent in these elections. See our recent blog post on councillor well-being and our Members only guide on councillor safety.
More information to come
Finally, you can expect further information and support from LGiU in the weeks to come. We will be reviewing party manifestos and providing further Members only briefings on election issues as well as sharing information for our registered Followers (free access) and Members. To get the information you need, make sure that you are registered on the LGiU website and that you have signed up for frequent updates in the Democracy, devolution and governance topic.