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Local elections postponed for a year due to coronavirus outbreak

3 min read

Boris Johnson has moved to postpone May’s local elections for a year amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Government’s medical advisors are predicting the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak will come over the next few months, around the time millions across the country are set to head to the polls.

But despite calls by the official watchdog the Electoral Commission to push them back, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Friday morning they would be going ahead as planned.

However Number 10 has now confirmed the local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections will be put back by 12 months.

A Government spokesperson said: "We will bring forward legislation to postpone local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections until May next year. 

“We will also work with the devolved administrations to ensure that they have the necessary powers to do the same."

It comes after Labour called for the suspension of the elections, writing in support of the Electoral Commission’s advice.

Their General Secretary Jennie Formby said the party will “always want democratic processes to continue as much as is practical and safe”, but in light of public health concerns the focus for council staff should be on providing essential public services.

The letter adds: “We share your concerns about the ability of local authorities to deliver the elections in advance and on the day, at the same time as continuing to manage vital services that will have increased pressure on them due to the coronavirus.

“We also have serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of our staff and members who would be campaigning in the run up to 7 May.

“As such, we have today advised our Constituency Labour Parties to cancel all campaigning and meetings.”

London Mayoral candidate and ex-Cabinet Minister Rory Stewart said he supported the move to postpone, tweeting: “The right decision.

“We should now move more rapidly to close gatherings, and schools; extend the isolation period; and restrict non-essential visits to care homes (who have few back up options for patients if they have to close).”

Ed Davey, acting Leader of the Lib Dems, said: “It is the right decision to delay local elections but it is not clear why the government has decided to delay for a year rather than until autumn as the Electoral Commission advised.”

And James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The LGA has been raising a number of issues with government including the possible impact of coronavirus on local elections.

“The swift decision is very helpful. Councils will now continue to put all of their efforts into supporting their local communities as the nation tackles COVID-19.”


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