Hartlepool plans for elections after covid delay

Council chiefs have stated local elections are still currently planned to go ahead in 2021, after being delayed this year due to Covid-19.

By Nic Marko
Monday, 14th December 2020, 6:00 am
File picture of a polling booth as Hartlepool begins to plan for elections returning in 2021
File picture of a polling booth as Hartlepool begins to plan for elections returning in 2021

The decision was made nationally in March 2020 that local and mayoral elections in England planned for May 2020 would be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Council chiefs have provided an update on the situation, and said the latest advice from Government is that elections will be going ahead as planned in May 2021.

Hartlepool Borough Council is due to have an all out election, with every seat up for grabs, while there will also be elections for the Tees Valley Mayor and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner.

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Denise McGuckin, managing director at Hartlepool Council, said they have recently been speaking to the Government over the issue, and the latest guidance is elections will be going ahead.

However, speaking at the audit and governance committee, she noted work is having to take place looking at polling stations due to Covid-19, while there may also be a greater emphasis on postal votes.

She said: “We’re talking to Government regarding the elections, because like you we need to be well prepared in advance, and they are telling us that they are going to go ahead.

“They’ve asked us to look at our polling stations, as you’ll be aware we’ve got some in our care homes, and rightly so we shouldn’t be having them in care homes, so we’ll have to look for alternative locations.

“We’re all in the same boat. I think there’ll be a big push for postal votes. We are being told to continue and progress as if they’re going to happen.”

Council officers will also be looking at existing polling stations in schools to determine whether they can continue to be used due to the impact of Covid-19.

It came after Cllr Marjorie James had called for an update on if the elections would be going ahead, after raising concerns over the impact of campaigning in the new year due to Covid-19.

She added she was planning to retire this year, and has already delayed this for 12 months due to the postponement of the elections.

She said: “One of the first things the government did when Covid became a major issue in the early spring of this year was to remove elections from the timetable.

“I wouldn’t think it would be too advisable for the first thing that happens in the new year is for people to start banging on doors doing electioneering for the May elections.

“I would be interested to know whether there is any guidance being given about things like that. I’d just like a bit of forward notice to know whether it is going to be extended again.”

Councillors commented they would be looking at different ways of campaigning, such as online and by phone, although concerns were raised over residents who do not have access to such technology.

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