Cabinet agree to Wirral Council using £100,403 grant to increase voter registration in “deprived wards”
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The Cabinet item on the individual electoral registration scrutiny report starts at 3:16 in the video above.
Councillor Jean Stapleton addresses the Cabinet about upcoming changes to the way people register to vote
The first main item on the Cabinet last agenda was a scrutiny report on individual electoral registration that was referred to it by the Policy and Performance Coordinating Committee at its meeting on the 15th January. The original report to that committee can be read here, along with the scrutiny report as the report on Cabinet’s agenda was just a copy of the minutes of that meeting. It does however raise the question of as there have been five Cabinet meetings since the Coordinating Committee meeting of the 15th January (last Thursday’s was the fifth) why hasn’t it appeared on an agenda before now?
However, Councillor Jean Stapleton the Chair of the Scrutiny Panel addressed Cabinet on the subject of individual electoral registration (the other panel members were Councillor Moira McLaughlin, Councillor Denise Roberts and Councillor Steve Williams whose mug shots can be found on at the bottom of page 14 of the
report). Cllr Jean Stapleton explained what officers had told them they were doing to prepare for individual electoral registration.
In case you are wondering what individual electoral registration actually means, at the moment each year a form goes out to each household annually to confirm who is registered to vote there. However there will be a change (although not until after the next set of elections in May) and voters will be expected to register to vote on an individual, not household basis.
Councillor Jean Stapleton said that officers had told them that based on their test of matching data on the electoral roll with other information held by Wirral Council such as Council Tax information, that it was estimated (across the whole of Wirral) that 89% of people would be transferred to the new register automatically. However this percentage was lower in the “deprived areas” (and although she didn’t explicitly say it the wards that return Labour councillors at elections). She wanted Wirral Council to actively target these areas to maximise the numbers of registered voters and to use the additional funding they had been given this financial year by the Cabinet Office of £100,403 with a further unknown amount expected from the Cabinet Office in 2014/15.
She felt that it should be a high priority in 2014 as she felt that the public were virtually unaware of this change. She said that non-IER registered voters would remain on the register for the 2015 General Election (originally the change was planned to be in place for the 2015 General Election but proved too contentious) and said that once the new register was published on the 1st December 2015 that these non-IER registered voters would be removed. She asked Cabinet to accept the recommendations.
Councillor Phil Davies said, “Ok thanks Jean. I mean I think it’s an excellent piece of work, I think you’ve highlighted I think a key issue really in the report which is about those areas of the Borough where there’s a need to do some targeted work to increase registration. Just to explain a little bit about what form that targeted work might take out of interest?”
Councillor Jean Stapleton said that there would be opportunities to target particular areas, even to drill down to postal districts “within a deprived ward”. She said it was a fantastic opportunity for Wirral Council to go round “knocking on doors”. Cllr Stapleton said that they pass “swathes of doors” where people weren’t registered to vote and she said it was an opportunity to talk to those people. She said she was “delighted with the opportunity” but that the real worry she had was over the register used at the 2016 elections.
Councillor Ann McLachlan, Cabinet Member for Governance and Improvement said, “Yes, thank you Chair. I mean first of all I’d like to say how I welcome this report and I’d like to start by congratulating the members of the panel on a really excellent piece of work. When we set up the policy and performance committees, this is exactly the kind of work that we hoped would be done as scrutiny work.
Thanks Jean, Councillor McLaughlin Moira McLaughlin and Denise Roberts and Councillor Steve Williams for plodding through and it really is an excellent piece of work. The report it does really highlight you know the areas of deprivation that we are going to target them and I’ve noticed that there is issues around possibly using local media, radio, ICT and of course you know the key role of elected Members is in highlighting .. you know those crucial tools to ensure that we want to make sure people are retained on the register because although there’ll be this changeover to the new register, people are going to be asked for additional information. Where that information around National Insurance numbers and dates of birth is not there, if people don’t respond and react to that they could fall off the register.
So it’s really key that we ensure that we you know as elected Members, but as Council play a role in that and I hope that some of that work that we’ll do in you now using the money that’s being fully funded, is being fully funded by the government I hope we’ll use that work in terms of making sure that we use you know ICT, use local media to ensure that we do update, to ensure that people aren’t but I notice as well in the report that you highlight the work and preparation that the Council has already done and in terms of data matching we came out quite above the average really on the work that’s been done so far and we’ve got in place an electoral management system and I think we’re working closely with other authorities on this, you know … Merseyside wide authorities so there’s some kind of project plan for the media to ensure that when the Electoral Commission fund and launch their campaign that we’re running with our campaign locally.
So you know I think as I said this is an excellent piece of work, a fully funded piece of work. I fully endorse the report and completely accept the recommendations that are there which I’m sure we’ll want to do and a fabulous piece of horizon scanning work so you know we need to pass on our thanks to the members of the panel and I’d like that recorded thank you.”
Cllr Jean Stapleton responded to Cllr Ann McLachlan’s comments. Cllr Phil Davies referred to recommendation three in the report that “Chairs of constituency committees are requested to include IER
as a topic for discussion as part of their forward planning in the New Year”. He said that they would have to pass this request on as not all constituency chairs were councillors.
Cllr Phil Davies went on to describe it as an “excellent piece of work” and congratulated her and the team behind it. Cllr Jean Stapleton congratulated the officers and Cabinet agreed to endorse all the recommendations.
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