CROYDON COMMENTARY: Responding to the suggestion from Gavin Barwell that the council’s chief executive is considering staging three separate poll counts for next year’s General Election, ROD DAVIES provides this insight
Few people have actually managed any part of an election. I have…
In the first instance, there are very few potential venues in Croydon capable of handling the three counts. Really, it comes down to a very large school premises, or Fairfield Halls. Both Trinity and Fairfield are expensive. Trinity has the edge with all the counts being on one level, good vehicle access and generous parking. The logistics involved in building the count venue in Fairfield Halls is difficult due to it being spread over several floors and separated areas.
The question of cost is a significant one. As Trinity School is part of a very wealthy charitable foundation that arguably exerts tremendous influence in the town for its own benefit, one might ask “shouldn’t Trinity allow the use of the space for a very low cost or free?”
As budgets have been cut over the years, the number of people available to work on an election have diminished. For the 2010 General Election there was a logistics team of six. In the last local election I understand that this was reduced to two. This manages the Polling Stations and the deployment of equipment to them, followed by the recovery of the equipment immediately after the election. In between, the same team has to design and deploy the count build. All of this is behind-the-scenes work that no one notices unless something goes drastically wrong.
If Croydon Council wants to move away from paying Trinity School or Fairfield to a cheaper option, it faces an enormous challenge to find suitable places and then develop plans to managed the dispersed resources.
There will be those who suggest using empty commercial property for the count, such as Segas and Ellis Houses, but these require considerable investment to make them suitable and capable of handling so many people. They may also not lend themselves to the movement of large quantities of furniture, equipment and ultimately ballot boxes and accompanying paperwork. And when it’s all over everything has to be removed very quickly and the building closed down.
At the heart of any public discussion of the operation of elections is most people’s total lack of knowledge of how elections are organised. We all take it for granted that on Polling Day the Polling Station is open, the signage is in place, the booths and other furniture are set up, the staff are in place and the ballot box ready to receive our ballot. We take it for granted that the count venue is ready and at the end of the count the declaration will be made.
For those who are interested here is a link to a list of polling stations, each of which must be supported.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, Northern Soul, Dec 18
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- David Lean Cinema, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jan 3
- David Lean Cinema, Mr Turner, Jan 8
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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