Should this year's local elections be postponed?

  Posted: 10.01.21 at 11:45 by Philippa Davies

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Local elections could be postponed for the second year running because of the coronavirus.

Last year elections across the country were cancelled and elected councillors whose time was due to run out were asked to stay on for another year.

Now, with a third national lockdown in force and the clock ticking towards May 6, it is being suggested there is another delay to ensure the poll can take place safely.

Locally, elections were due to be held for Devon County Council and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner.

Polls to fill vacancies on town councils that arose last year had also been delayed until May 2021.

Across the country, around 40 million people would have been voting locally, in the first electoral test for the present government since the start of the pandemic.

Last week the government began contacting local authorities to seek views on what should be done.

How long a delay is being proposed?

What appears to be the most likely scenario is that the elections will be put back to the autumn, with October appearing to be a preferred scenario in the regions – though the word is that Downing Street would prefer to see the elections put back just one month.

It’s not just the issues of attendance at polling stations and counting the votes that are causing concern.

Elections are likely to bring about significant door-to-door canvassing, which health experts fear would create another spike in Covid-19 transmission.

The search for answers from across the country is being driven from Whitehall, where a spokesperson said: “Local government leaders have had a suggestion from government that the elections are moved to June or July, but many think that’s too soon to ensure polling booths are safe, so have mooted the idea of September.

"Holding the elections with postal votes only has been ruled out.”

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