Use our free voting widget if you have not received poll card

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Katherine Kerswell: council CEO admits she has failed to issue poll cards on time

That, effectively, was the message being issued last night from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly on the eve of the borough-wide governance referendum by Katherine Kerswell, the council chief executive.

Croydon’s £192,474 CEO was forced to admit, at the 11th hour, that her organisation had failed in the simple task of issuing voting cards to all the borough’s voters in time for today’s big vote.

For what is, after all, for most Croydon’s residents a fairly esoteric question – should the borough be run by a directly elected politician, or a politician picked by their politician mates? – the turn-out on referendum day was already expected to be as low as 20 per cent.

But the failure by the council to issue poll cards could reduce the number of voters further still.

No one actually needs a poll card to be able to vote.

You should be able to turn up at your polling station, your own pencil in hand, give your name and address to the officials inside, and they can then hand you your ballot paper. A simple X later, and your democratic duty is all done.

Poll cards often act as a helpful reminder that polling day is approaching. They also provide confirmation of where a person’s polling station can be located (they are sometimes changed).

Which is why the Inside Croydon voting day widget, as included at the top  of this page, is so handy: just fill in your postcode, and it offers all eligible addresses; select the right one, and your polling station and polling times are revealed.

But Kerswell and the civic machinery of Croydon Council has been unable to deliver that important information to all voters in the borough this time around. Poll cards should have been going out to individuals around three weeks ago.

How the Inside Croydon voting widget (with addresses suitably redacted) provides the information that the borough’s ‘counting officer’ has failed to distribute to all voters

Campaign organisers across the borough had been reporting an increasing volume of calls and emails from concerned residents who had not received their expected poll cards from Kerswell’s council. “Had the referendum been called off?” and “Have I been taken off the voting register?” were among the more common questions arising.

Last night, just before 5pm and far too late to make the local TV news bulletins, ahead of referendum day, never mind what’s left of the dead-tree press, Kerswell issued what amounts to a mea culpa.

The council’s press office statement read: “Everyone who is eligible to vote should have received a poll card in the post. Residents who believe they are on the electoral register but have not received a polling card should contact or call our dedicated line 020 8604 7205.

“Poll cards are for information only – you do not need to take your poll card or any ID to the polling station. On arrival, you will be asked to confirm your name and address and provided you are on the electoral register, you will be able to vote.

“To help everyone stay safe during covid-19, people will be encouraged to wear face coverings inside polling stations, to maintain social distancing and if possible, to bring their own pen or pencil.

“After polling stations close at 10pm, votes will be counted and results posted on the council’s webpage,, and social media channels as soon as they are available.”

Kerswell said,  “A tremendous amount of planning and preparation goes into every polling day, and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the polling stations tomorrow. I want to encourage all of our residents to come out and cast their vote – this is a really important opportunity to exercise your democratic right and have your say on how your council is run.”

As the borough’s returning officer, or in this case “counting officer”, Kerswell is paid an estimated £20,000-plus as a fee (the council refuses to say how much exactly) for overseeing the smooth running of borough elections and referendums. Including the issue of poll cards…

Perhaps, to make amends for this dropped bollock, she could donate her fee to  local food banks, which are likely to see an increase in demand over the coming weeks as the £20 per week covid “uplift” is withdrawn?

Read more: Reed tells nation what he won’t tell Croydon: trust the people
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
Read more: Referendum offers us a chance for consensus in Croydon

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in 2021 Mayor Referendum, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Use our free voting widget if you have not received poll card

  1. mikebweb says:

    You talk of voting cards, we did not even get our mail voting forms and had to do battle with the council for “lost post” Really – was it ever sent? Given the lack of competition for the £192.000 job are we paying her enough!!!!!!!!
    How to gain “brownie points” take a 5% cut, they would not even notice it after tax!

  2. I have to admit to some surprise here as Ms Kerswell’s partner has quite a good record of delivery as a Returning Officer.

    Perhaps though a quick gander into the Electoral Commissions Standards for Returning Officers might help?

    Here is bullet point 5:

    ‘• Ensure poll cards are received by voters as soon as possible so that voters have the maximum amount of time to act on the information.’

    As regulation of Elections and Councils ‘Statutory Requirement’ to deliver effective administration for voting etc, it would be interesting to know what the Electoral Commission thinks about the poor distribution of poll cards for this referendum.

    I wonder what the impact of circa 500 redundancies has had on this?. Normally there are quite a few people willing to assist at elections and in the administration.

    But Polling cards are for the Electoral Services to arrange with printers and Royal Mail or other carrier (and the Council’s role to ensure back-ups are in place if contractors fail)

    So how come a statement was only issued yesterday?

    When was this recognised as a problem?

    Either it was known and ignored, or it was not known and the process management and oversight was not fit for purpose. Was this due to a lack of resource, or down to incompetence?

    Is it a Mayor we need or just a more effective and timely watchdog on this Council and how it is operating? Perhaps both. Let us not blame only Ms Kerswell here, as imposed cuts may have had a large impact on this.

    When helicopter managers make decisions from a 90-degree focus, there is usually 270 degrees of disaster that follows. Mostly after they have left but not always! This may be a case in point.

  3. I think, sadly, 20% turnout might be a tad optimistic.

    I felt like the proverbial ‘Johnny no mates’ down at the polling station this morning – just me and my dog!

    Certainly not sending out polling cards seems almost like deliberate sabotage and perhaps further proof that an external person running the Borough could not make a worse job if it. Let’s hope, if it goes through, we have some decent, independent, candidates with the nous to appoint an effective CEO to choose from.

  4. Anita Smith says:

    it is like everything else in Croydon at the moment, shambolic. if Ms K is paid twice as much as a Mayor, and we cannot vote her out, a mea culpa is all we can expect. Is this all some dastardly plot to limit the flow of information, it would be interesting to learn whether most of the missing polling cards went missing in the Labour north or the Tory south. Answers on a postcard please which may or may not arrive.

  5. I cannot believe Croydon Council have fouled up the administration of this referendum (was Steve Reed involved?)

    Katherine Kerswell should step down from her position as returning officer. She’s clearly not up to it.

    And she needs to start engaging with residents, replying to letters and generally making herself seen and heard. If not, she should vacate the CEO position she was gifted by Government.

    Croydon deserves better, not another Jo Negrini.

  6. B says:

    I agree.

  7. B says:

    That’s a good question to ask,whether this was done intentionally

  8. Mike Bird says:

    No polling information card received by any of the four flats in my block. So not surprised by this.

    I got the Polling Station this morning on Whitehorse Road at 07:15 (some 15 minutes after it opened) to find out that I was the first person to vote. Now that did surprise me.

    On the way back I mentioned casually to a couple of people that the polling station was open; to be given a blank stare, or a “whats the vote for?” or similar response.

    I had a doorstep visit by councilor Hamida Ali a couple of weeks ago and was handed the “this will cost you loads more money” anti-elected-mayor handout, while the councilor did a reasonable job I must say of responding to my questions.

    I’ve had NOTHING from the conservative party or any other party for that matter, no doorstep visit, no leaflets, nothing, supporting their view on this referendum.

    I get the impression that the sheer lack of distributed information on this vote may be the major swing factor here.

  9. Well I’ve never heard of that happening before in nearly 50 years of voting. The cynic in me thinks that it could have been deliberate. If not, then gross incompetence, which seems to have been rampant in Fisher’s Folly over the past few years. I’m just waiting for either side to claim that the low turnout, partly as a result of this shambles, makes the result unrepresentative of the Croydon electorate.

  10. Has Katherine Kerswell tendered her resignation yet?

  11. Harry Heron says:

    Unbelievable. And of course…lashings of covid bollocks thrown in for good measure. Bring your own pen…you couldnae make it up.

  12. If Labour / Croydon Council are found to have attempted to influence the result of the referendum, for whatever reason, that’s a criminal offence.

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