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Disclosures of Interest
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
No disclosures of interests were made.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Governance Committee held on 10 October 2022.
The minutes of the meeting of the Governance Committee held on 10 October 2022 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
Public Question Time
To answer any questions asked by the public which relate to an item on this agenda and which are in line with the Council’s Constitution.
Public Question Time will be concluded by the Chair when all questions have been answered or on the expiry of a period of 15 minutes, whichever is the earlier.
No questions were asked by the public.
To consider report LDS/195 of the Head of Governance, People & Performance.
The Committee considered report LDS/195 of the Head of Governance, People & Performance which requested that some temporary changes to the Scheme of Polling Places relating to the May 2023 Borough Council elections be made in advance of the introduction of voter ID.
The current Scheme was adopted in January 2019 following ward boundary changes arising from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England electoral review of the Borough. The Polling Scheme worked well at the three sets of elections held in 2019.
Several temporary changes had been made to the Polling Scheme for the elections
held in 2021 and 2022 and, at its meeting held on 10 October 2022 the Committee considered the use of schools as polling places for May 2023. Further temporary
changes to the Polling Scheme were now recommended for polling districts LLB (Broadfield Ward), LMC (Three Bridges Ward) and LMD (Three Bridges Ward) due to the unavailability of venues and the requirements for the checking of voter ID.
Polling District LBB – Broadfield Ward (Broadfield Community Centre)
Committee members discussed the proposal to change the polling place for polling district LBB (Broadfield Ward) for the May 2023 election to Broadfield Community Centre as the building at the current polling place (the former adventure playground at Creasys Drive (“Creasys Drive”)) would be unavailable in May and for future elections. The Electoral Services Manager advised that future polling provision for this part of Broadfield would be considered at the statutory polling district review.
Following queries from the Committee regarding the reasons for the unavailability of Creasys Drive, the Electoral Services Manager advised that the site had been ear-marked for use as a potential Patch Team Depot by the Council. In addition, information had received that day which called into question the structural integrity of the building, although detailed information as to the nature of that structural damage had not yet been provided in detail.
The Committee acknowledged that the health and safety of voters and polling staff was paramount and, should it be deemed unsafe, due to any damage to the building or use/storage of large machinery within the vicinity, the building should not be used for polling. However, both the extent of damage to the building and potential disruption to the operation of any future use as a Depot was unknown at the current stage, and therefore the Committee felt it was important to obtain a greater understanding of those issues before a decision could be made on the matter.
Several Committee members held the view that Broadfield Community Centre had become very crowded when it had been used as the polling place for the whole of Broadfield Ward during the poll for the General Election. Those Councillors therefore suggested that Creasys Drive should be retained to reduce both queuing and overcrowding at the Community Centre. Additionally, it was asserted that frequently moving the location of a polling place within a Ward was confusing for electors and it was stressed that consistency of polling place locations ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Update on the Implementation of the Elections Act 2022
To receive a verbal update from the Electoral Services Manager on progress in implementing the Elections Act 2022.
The Electoral Services Manager gave an update on the Implementations of the Elections Act 2022. The presentation is attached to these minutes as Appendix A.
In giving the presentation, the Electoral Services Manager highlighted that:
· The changes mainly related to voter ID and disability provisions.
· It was estimated that 2%-5% of the population did not have ID which would be accepted at a polling station. It was therefore expected that approximately 1,500-2,000 voter ID cards would potentially need to be issued, and consequentially the Elections Team wanted to issue those as early as possible as the deadline for applying for voter ID was 25 April 2023.
· It would only be possible to issue an emergency proxy in circumstances which had been stipulated by the Electoral Commission once the deadline for voter ID had passed if the voter did not have alternative suitable ID.
· A significant amount of training on voter ID would need to be undertaken by polling station staff.
· Extra staffing would be provided at polling stations to assist with the additional work generated by the new requirements for checking ID.
· Further provisions relating to elections were expected over then next few years and, when necessary, updates on those provisions would be brought before the Governance Committee.
The Committee discussed the information provided and, in response to queries or comments made by the Committee, the Electoral Services Manager:
· Confirmed that publicity would be undertaken across the town to promote the need for voter ID, means of such publication would include community noticeboards and digital boards in the Town Centre.
· Advised that although the types of ID used for polling would not be recorded at the next election, records would be kept as to how many people were refused a ballot paper due to insufficient/unacceptable ID.
· Informed the Committee that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) had provided funding to pay for an additional Poll Clerk for each Polling Station to assist with the additional work generated by checking ID. That funding had been guaranteed for the next two years, but no pledge had been given by DLUHC that funding would continue beyond that period. Several members of the Committee felt uneasy that ongoing funding was not guaranteed.
· Advised that currently, when an elector came to vote in person and the Register of Electors suggested they had already received a vote, that elector would be offered a tendered ballot paper. The Electoral Services Manager advised that the number of tendered ballot papers issued was recorded and those statistics were passed to the Electoral Commission for analysis on a national basis. The Electoral Services Manager assured the Committee that the number of tendered ballot papers issued at elections run by Crawley Borough Council was low, and they would be disappointed if more than two/three tendered ballots were issued at any election.
· Confirmed that no petition had ever been submitted to challenge a Crawley Borough Council election result.
· Clarified that Presiding Officers would have the final say as to ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Electoral Services Manager
Following the Chair’s announcement that this was likely to be the last Governance Committee attended by the Electoral Services Manager before they retired, both the Chair and the Committee expressed an appreciation for the Electoral Services Manager’s work and dedication over the past 18 years. The Electoral Services Manager had maintained their good humour, patience, and calm nature throughout their time at the Council, especially given the challenging circumstances in recent years. The Committee wished them a long and well deserved retirement. The Electoral Services Manager responded by thanking the Committee for its kind words and shared that they had found it a pleasure working for the Council.