Local elections should go ahead despite Covid, says Norwich MP
- Credit: Archant
Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith has insisted local elections should go ahead in May although the situation is being kept "under review" due to the pandemic.
The Norwich North MP told the House of Commons a "high bar" would need to be crossed in order for the Government to delay the elections, which include local and mayoral contests, and legislation would be required to change the May 6 date.
The coronavirus outbreak saw elections for Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner and at Norwich City Council postponed for a year last March.
Replying to Labour's urgent question, Ms Smith said: "Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of any democracy and Parliament's decision, as set out in primary legislation, is that these polls should go ahead in May.
"Due to the pandemic, many of these elections had already been delayed by a year. But voters have a right to be heard and to decide who governs them.
"During the pandemic, local authorities will have taken many serious decisions impacting directly on those residents from council tax to road closures, and these are important issues where elected representatives should be held to account.”
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Shadow cabinet office minister Cat Smith asked whether a lack of preparation could force people to "choose between their health and their right to vote".
She said: "High numbers of electoral staff are volunteers, many in the high-risk category under Covid-19 guidance, so does the minister expect at-risk people to risk their health to support the safe running of these elections?"
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Ms Smith said "The very idea that someone would be forced to choose between their health and their vote is simply not an issue in this case.
She added: "It is the case that a new election date would require a change in legislation, and it's for that reason I think we can all understand here the bar for change would have to be quite high.
"Elections have already been held in both this country and other countries, so we can see that elections can be held."