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Village left without polling station after nursery group booking mix-up

PUBLISHED: 17:39 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 29 April 2019

Saxlingham Nethergate has been left without a polling station for the local elections. Picture: Nick Butcher

Saxlingham Nethergate has been left without a polling station for the local elections. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Voters in a south Norfolk village are facing a four-mile round trip to take part in this week's election - as their usual polling station was double booked for a nursery group.

A map showing the distance Saxlingham Nethergate voters will have to travel on polling day. Picture: GoogleA map showing the distance Saxlingham Nethergate voters will have to travel on polling day. Picture: Google

On Thursdays, Saxlingham Nethergate village hall is used for a nursery group between, 9.30am and 3pm and - in previous years - has also served as the village's polling station.

However this year, when staff arranging South Norfolk Council's polling stations called to secure the hall, they were told by a member of staff at the parish council that the hall was unavailable.

After hearing this, the council assigned Trinity Hospital in Shotesham as the village's polling station - more than two miles away.

The move has left a bad taste for the parish council, with vice chairman Marie Francis frustrated that the agent had not taken the matter up further with them.

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She said: “The person the agent spoke to has no authority on the council - they are simply responsible for managing a diary, therefore they would have simply told the agent what was already booked in. This absolutely does not count as consulting the parish.

“Had the matter been taken up with the parish council in more detail we would have found a way to make sure the hall could have been used - we could have cancelled the nursery or they could have taken the children on a trip.”

She added: “People in the village are very unhappy about this. It will no doubt have a big impact on the turnout, as in the past many people would cast their votes as they go about their usual routine - mums picking up children for example.

“These people are unlikely to go out of their way to vote - while elderly people without cars will have no way of getting to Shotesham either.”

A spokesman for South Norfolk Council said that due to wheelchair accessibility issues it would not have been possible to run the election and nursery from the village hall concurrently.

He added that the parish council had declined an opportunity to take part in a review of the council's polling station's earlier this year.

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