January 11, 2021 2.20 pm This story is over 40 months old

Public safety fears over May elections amid COVID pandemic

Mounting pressure to delay elections again

Elections set to take place in May could be delayed, some for a second time, due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Government bosses are concerned over the practicalities of holding the elections during the pandemic because of public safety fears, social distancing and the capacity of venues to host voters.

There are also concerns over the safety of campaign activists being out and about and visiting people’s doors.

Elections due to take place which impact Lincolnshire this year will decide:

  • The Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • The Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Lincolnshire County Council’s 70 seats
  • 11 of City of Lincoln Council’s 33 seats
  • and 14 of North East Lincolnshire Council’s 42 seats

Lincoln, North East Lincolnshire and the two PCCs were due to take place on May 7, 2020, but were cancelled amid the first national lockdown.

District and county council sources in Lincolnshire have said they continue to plan for May elections and would be guided by government.

However, responding to the speculation, Councillor Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council said: “Whilst we have been told nothing formally, personally I think delaying the election for a few months would be sensible.

“With Covid-19 still being a determining factor, it will be challenging for councils to safely run polling stations and counts, which do require physical interactions with the collection and monitoring of votes.

“Apparently, the Royal Mail are saying making the election all postal is not deliverable at such short notice. It makes sense that in the warmer summer months, when COVID will hopefully be more under control, we can hold the elections safely and successfully.”

Reports in national papers suggest the elections could be moved to October.

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones tweeted: “The safety of the public must come first, so delay if must but PCC elections are already a year late.”

However, he added that “billions of taxpayers” pounds was spent by councillors and his own role and that “they need a mandate”.

He dismissed a proposal to shorten the PCC term from its original four year length, saying new candidates needed the extra time to get used to the complexities of the role.

He also argued the second preference system of voting “needs sorting” in a bid to tackle spoilt ballots and increased costs due to the extra counting and staff needed.

The County Councils Network has previously urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to decide “as soon as possible”.

Mr Johnson said the May date would be kept under review.

Conservative MP Steve Brine told the BBC on Monday that he had been talking to the party’s central office and “cannot see how you could do that”.