What do you mean, you didn’t know anything about another Croydon Council consultation, this time about where and how you are able to vote at elections?
Croydon, the council that put the “con” into consulation, announced its latest public engagement exercise last week – yep, August, in the midst of the holiday season. The consultation on a review of the borough’s polling districts for future local or national elections is open for less than one month, and is due to close on September 2.
Such a brief period for a relatively unheralded consultation on what might be considered one of the most important functions of the local authority – the maintenance and encouragement of democracy – is liable to prompt scepticism from local residents.
But the issuing of threats of £1,000 fines against voters who fail to respond to a terse form issued by the borough’s returning officer, Jo Negrini, has provoked anger at the heavy-handed conduct of the council.
Negrini, who receives a nice little bonus of around £20,000 per year (depending on the number of elections or referendums staged in the period) for her role as the borough’s returning officer had the forms distributed last month, in the annual exercise to keep tabs on the number and whereabouts of those eligible to vote in the borough.
“It is a legal requirement to provide the information requested,” said Negrini’s little love letter to the people who pay her wages. “If you do not you could be fined £1,000.”
It would take just 220 people in the borough to be issued with such fines to raise enough money to pay Negrini’s chief executive’s salary.
“The tone of the letter is all wrong,” said one iC reader. “It’s completely unnecessary, and inappropriate from a public servant. It has a bullying tone.”
Inside Croydon has been unable to find any record of the last time that the council implemented the fine for non-return or response to the electoral roll form, which sort of suggests that Negrini’s threat is an empty one, and therefore all the more unnecessary.
Readers have also been unimpressed with the voting district consultation. At least, those readers who have somehow managed to stumble over any indication that such a consultation exists.
Croydon’s parliamentary constituencies are divided into polling districts for elections, and the number of polling stations in each district depends on its number of registered voters.
According to a press release from the Town Hall, “To reflect local population changes since the last electoral boundary review in 2017, Croydon Council is proposing to change some local polling districts and stations.”
The council announcement fails to detail what these proposals are, merely offering a link to the council website.
But the proposals do include amending boundaries so some addresses come under different districts and polling stations; creating new polling stations; and merging two polling districts into one.
The council states: “Any local registered voter in Croydon may give the council any comments and suggestions of alternative polling venues.” Well they can, but only if they actually know about the consultation.
The “proposals” – that is, what Negrini has cooked up and intends to implement – will get an airing at a council meeting before being imposed from February 1, 2020.
Voters can submit comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Seth Alker, Head of Electoral Services, Croydon Council, Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon, CR9 1DE.
Comments must reach the council no later than 5pm on September 2.
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