Local Elections

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”.

Lincolnshire health bosses are confident the county can return to some of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in England as it heads into 2021, but warned people need to “work our hardest now”.

Infection rates across the county have already shown signs of dropping. On Monday there were some 297 cases confirmed in the county, although three residents also died with the virus.

Andy Fox, Lincolnshire County Council’s consultant in public health, said the figures across the county were “tracking down broadly, which is really good” as we head into December.

“It’s an important time for us all. As we go into tier 3, we need to make this work for Lincolnshire and we need to work our hardest now, especially in the in the period before Christmas, to make sure we all follow those key tier 3 regulations,” he said.

“Although in Lincolnshire we might feel that we’re in a tougher place being in tier 3, in terms of preventing the virus, it’s a good place to be and it should mean that if we come down, we could end up going into 2021 as one of the lowest prevalence areas in the country.”

East Lindsey District Council, which had been third highest last week, dropped to the 13th spot in Monday’s seven-day averages.

Most other districts also saw a drop, however, Boston jumped to second place nationally after infections spiked to 515.9 — that’s nearly double the county average of 270.5, and more than three times the England average of 167.8.

| Data: GOV UK / Table: The Lincolnite

Mr Fox said: “Boston has been heading in the wrong direction. We’ve seen a slow increase over the last couple of days. It is concerning.”

However, his suspicion is the rise was related to “a couple of outbreaks” leading to high spikes, which were “yet to clear out of the seven-day figures”.

These are understood to include care homes where asymptomatic testing is carried out on a regular basis.

He said the council’s own figures, which were ahead of the government ones shared with the media, suggested the infection rate would come down, but that health bosses were being cautious.

Lincolnshire cases up to November 30 (recent five days incomplete).

Lincoln city also saw a slight increase in its infection rate from 331.3 on November 27 to 338.4 per 100,000 — placing it 11th in the national rankings as of Monday.

Health bosses jumped on the chance to be included in the government’s mass community testing pilot, which is available for all tier three areas.

They are hoping to be able to use the new legislation to target key areas such as food factories and care homes.

Further details are still to be confirmed as to what local authorities can do, but the government is understood to be letting councils lead the pilots based on local knowledge.

Elections due to be held in May have been postponed for a year due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The decision will mean Lincoln and North East Lincolnshire councils, which were both due to put up a third of their seats on May 7, as well as the Lincolnshire and Humberside Police and Crime Commissioners, will no longer face the vote.

The Electoral Commission yesterday (Thursday) recommended to Government that votes should be postponed until Autumn.

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones, said in response to the earlier recommendation that “strong leadership” was needed from public representatives to keep the public safe.

“Considerations around the timing of PCC elections are far from my mind as I concentrate on delivering public service in the interests of the people of Lincolnshire.

“I am totally committed to supporting the Chief Constable as the police service face the huge challenges of the current emerging situation.

“We will do all that we can help keep officers and the wider police family as safe as possible to aid their efforts to keep us all safer together.”


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