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Elections Ahead

January 17, 2021 4:25 PM

Last year, elections were postponed across England with the first devastating wave of the coronavirus.

The current pandemic infection rate, hospitalisations and deaths are even more stark and tragic, Wiltshire has been less affected than other parts of the Country where infection rates have gone through the roof, but there is no room for complacency. Even as local surgeries across the county in places such as Warminster, Trowbridge and Tisbury are now offering the vaccination to local communities in larger venues, the medical and scientific evidence shows that even if we hit the Government's most optimistic vaccination targets, the real threat to public health will be with us for many months.

Democratic elections depend on campaigning - voters need to know what the candidates stand for - and even more so on turnout of electors. It's vital the public feel safe to engage with candidates and then go to vote.

We cannot ask our people to knock on doors or deliver leaflets and we cannot ask the public to vote, until the threat is massively reduced.

Polling stations will need people to staff them for many hours, bringing them close to hundreds of people each going into a polling booth to mark their ballot paper.

Even postal voting that all parties are promoting as a possible solution, provides chances for social interaction and therefore an increased threat of infections.

We all will want the elections to take place. They're our chance to hold our elected representatives to account. In Wiltshire, residents will want to give their verdict on the Conservative administration - on the cuts they've made to vital services, their handling of the free school meals debacle, planning decisions or on their management of issues such as the climate emergency, the decision to close Furlong Close in Rowde.

But in the end, they must be elections that are safe for all to take part in.

So the simple message to Government, as part of a sensible Covid recovery plan is to consider whether its better to:

  • Postpone elections in England for local councils and Police and Crime Commissioners
  • Set out criteria for going ahead such as a vast majority of the population vaccinated, hospital admissions massively reduced, and NHS and other vital services not an emergency footing
  • Guarantee extra funding to councils so that they can put in place any extra measures still necessary to protect the public, candidates, and election workers Vote