Last year’s local elections were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that councillors already in office maintained their positions for another year. It has been announced that this year’s local elections will go ahead as planned on the 6th May.
Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution, Chloe Smith, has stated:
“Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of our democracy.
In light of the unprecedented global pandemic, the government last year postponed for one year the scheduled local polls that were due to take place in May 2020, as well as subsequent by-elections. In the year that has intervened, Returning Officers, the government and their partners have made extensive preparations to be able to hold these polls on 6 May 2021 in a way that minimises the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Everyone who feels comfortable going to a supermarket or a post office should also feel confident attending a polling station in May. We encourage anybody who is shielding, or who would prefer not to attend a polling station, to apply for a postal or proxy vote ahead of the polls.”
Around the world, elections have been proceeding amidst the pandemic, including the presidential election in the United States and local elections in France, Ireland, and South Korea. However, there have been numerous calls for the election to be further delayed this year due to growing concerns around safety and increasing the spread of the virus.
The government is attempting to combat this by providing £92 million of grant funding to local authorities in order to source additional staff and support social distancing measures.
Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor James Jamieson, has stated:
“The scale and cost of these vital extra measures to ensure everyone’s safe involvement in the elections and the counting of votes are now being assessed by councils. The level of extra government financial support will need to be kept under review as the real-world costs and implications are calculated.”
In Wales, people are being encouraged to vote by post, and will be the first to include 16 and 17-year-old voters. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said there is “no reason at this stage” for the election not to go ahead, despite calls for it to be postponed.
Labour MSP, Neil Findlay, is an advocate for delaying the election, and has stated:
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“Can you think of any other place during this crisis where we’d be encouraging thousands of people to go into the same small spaces? That’s effectively what we’d be doing.”