To consider the attached report.
In attendance for this item was the Democratic Services Manager, S Tautz and Senior Electoral Services Officer, W MacLeod.
The Democratic Services Manager reported that the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 introduced a change to the timing of compulsory reviews of UK Parliamentary polling districts and polling places, which had to be completed every five years. The current review of the parliamentary polling districts and polling places within the Epping Forest District commenced on 18 February 2019 and was required to be completed by 31 January 2020.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed at its meeting on 18 December 2018, that the appropriate select committee would directly make recommendations to Council, to ensure that the review was completed on time, following the local elections in May 2019 and prior to the commencement of the next Electoral Register canvass in August 2019.
The notice of a review together with details of the existing polling districts, polling places and polling stations was given on 18 February 2019, which ran until 1 April 2019. Submissions from the (Acting) Returning Officers of the UK Parliamentary constituencies in the district, electors and other interested persons and bodies were invited to comment. A Number of responses were received from the (Acting) Returning Officer - Epping Forest Constituency, the (Acting), Returning Officer – Harlow Constituency, various District Councillors, Epping Town Council and Stanford Rivers Parish Council.
The proposals that had been determined viable by the Electoral Registration Officer were that;
· Within the Epping Forest Parliamentary Constituency, the transfer of:
house numbers 1-25 in Rayfield, Epping from polling district AN to polling district AO, resulting in the polling station for these electors being the Epping Town Council Offices in St. John’s Road, rather than the Epping United Reformed Church in Lindsey Street; and
house numbers 2-38 in Coopersale Street, Epping from polling district AK to polling district AL, resulting in the polling station for these electors being the Coopersale Social Institute, rather than the Allnutts Institute (now the Scout Hut, Flux’s Lane, Epping).
· That no changes had been identified in relation to polling places;
· That each of the proposed polling stations were fully accessible;
· That the revised register would be published on 1 December 2019, following the completion of the annual canvass;
· That electors affected by the review would be made aware of changes to the places where they voted;
· That there were no proposals for changes to existing polling districts, polling places and polling stations arising from consideration of the review, in either the Brentwood and Ongar or Harlow Parliamentary Constituencies.
The Committee were asked to recommend the proposals of the review to Council on 30 July 2019.
Councillor R Brookes thanked officers for the detailed reported and endorsed the comments of Councillor S Murray for the polling district AZ Whitebridge to revert to Whitebridge Junior School, Greensted Road, as the parking and accessibility to this polling station was much better than the combined polling station at St Michaels and All Angels Church Hall, Roding Road. She advised that the Headteacher would also be able to plan for the yearly local elections, through teacher training dates, although she did acknowledge that ad-hoc dates for general elections could be problematic.
Councillor S Rackham commented on the use of a polling station in a public house and that this could deter votes for religious reasons. The Democratic Services Manager advised that this would be brought into future considerations, although no negative feedback from voters had been received at this time and the polling station itself was not in the bar area of the premises.
The Community and Partnerships Portfolio Holder advised that the polling station CA Shelley was actually at Ongar Primary School, Milton Crescent, Shelley. The Democratic Services Manager noted this amendment.
Councillor R Bassett advised that there may be future issues with the proposed polling station for the Harlow Parliamentary Constituency DA Nazeingbury, as St Giles Church Hall, Nazeing would be undergoing refurbishment in early 2020. He suggested that an alternative venue could be Nazeing Primary School.
The Customer Services Portfolio Holder advised that there were other polling stations in Waltham Abbey wards that had roads which were divided between different polling stations and whether it was too late for these issues to be considered. The Democratic Services Manager asked him to put these recommendations in writing, so they could be considered.
That a report be submitted to the Council recommending:
(a) That the proposals for Polling Districts and Polling Places in the Epping Forest District as set out in Appendix 1 to this report, be approved;
(b) that the proposals be published, and copies be made available for inspection by the public at the Civic Offices, in at least one place in each Parliamentary Constituency covering the Epping Forest District and on the Council’s website;
(c) that any alterations required, as a result of the review in the revised Electoral Register to be published on 1 December 2019 be noted; and
(d) that, when determining the location of Polling Stations for future elections, the (Acting) Returning Officer take account of the any comments made about specific Polling Stations arising from the review.