Covid-19 puts poll on hold

Covid-19 puts poll on hold
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

THE Government’s decision to postpone May’s local elections will inevitably have a cost for Kirklees Council.

But the authority has backed the order, saying “you cannot put a price on people’s health.”

And politicians in Kirklees have described the decision as “an understandable precaution.” 

It means the Labour-led Kirklees Council, which has a majority of just one, will go on to 2021.

Despite the current frustration, campaigners can look forward to a bumper “Super Thursday” next year when the country will go to the polls for district, county, metropolitan councils, and police and crime commissioners as well as the mayoral elections in London and West Yorkshire.

The latter follows the recent signing of a devolution deal for West Yorkshire.

Prime minister Boris Johnson took the decision to postpone elections as polling day would have coincided with the expected peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday (March 12) the Electoral Commission had proposed delaying elections until the autumn to “mitigate” the effects of Covid-19.

A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “Our preparations to host the local elections in May 2020 were well underway but the decision has been made by Government to postpone them until next year.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our residents so we absolutely support this decision.

“It might mean some of the money spent on preparations for this year is lost but you cannot put a price on people’s health.

“We are waiting for further advice from Government and will continue to work hard to deliver the elections for when they are rearranged.”

Coun Shabir Pandor, council leader and head of the ruling Labour group, said: “The decision to defer the election is the right thing to do in the interest of public health.

“It would make no sense to have an election. Party members would be knocking on doors, meeting people that would increase the risk to infect others.

“On polling day and at the count there would be a high risk of infection passing to others. At the moment what the public want is assurances from all politicians in how best we solve this together.

“The health and wellbeing of our residents comes first and is always a priority for me.”

Reacting to the news Coun Andrew Cooper, leader of the Green group on Kirklees Council, said postponement was “the sensible thing to do.

“We have to ensure that we limit the potential for deaths.

“Discussions over what to do about the elections have gone backwards and forwards over the last couple of days.

“We were expecting the Government to take the Electoral Commission’s advice and delay until the autumn but they have gone for a full year. It’s the right decision.”

Coun Charles Greaves, leader of the Independent group, said the postponement raised questions about members’ roles and responsibilities in the 12 months to come.

“Many councillors’ terms are due to expire. Do we continue in our posts or are we in a limbo land? Will the Government bring in emergency legislation?

“This situation throws up many, many questions.”

And Coun David Hall, leader of the Conservatives, gave his thoughts.

“I am sure the Government will have taken this decision in the best interests of public health.

“I feel sorry for those potential candidates who were gearing up to the local elections, many of whom had already prepared literature and campaign plans, but I suspect that this decision won’t prompt a great deal of response from the general public.”

Share this post