Number 10 says May’s local elections will go ahead despite watchdog calling for suspension
Number 10 has insisted May’s local elections will go ahead in defiance of a call by the official watchdog to postpone them amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Electoral Commission wrote to the Cabinet Office saying the growing pandemic could mean “significant numbers” of people would not be able to vote.
And the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) has warned there might be insufficient staff to keep all polling stations open.
The think tank WebRoots Democracy is predicting up to two million voters will stay at home on polling day, dropping turnouts to as low as 21%.
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there are no plans to postpone or cancel the upcoming ballots.
They said: "We are working to facilitate the local, mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 7 May.
"We continue to work closely with those delivering the elections while being guided by the evidence and latest advice from medical experts."
On Thursday the Electoral Commission said they were recommending their postponement until the autumn “due to growing risks to the delivery of the polls and to mitigate the impact on voters, campaigners and electoral administrators”.
Their chief executive Bob Posner wrote to Chloe Smith, a Cabinet Office minister, saying: “We anticipate that as a result of the direct and indirect impacts of Covid-19, there will be significant numbers of registered electors who in practice will not have opportunity to vote, or feel inclined to vote.
“While increased access to post and proxy voting may provide a partial solution for some electors, it would create further and additional pressures and risks in other parts of the system.”
Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne criticised the decision to not postpone the election, saying: “Government will have to change their view on this.
“Set aside public health arguments for postponing, the reality is our Council staff will be struggling to keep critical services running: social care, home care, refuse collection and burials.
“Pulling staff off to run elections is barmy!”
And the Lib Dems’ acting leader Ed Davey tweeted: “Alarmed Ministers ignoring Electoral Commission advice, especially given no consultation with other political parties.”