Elections face being delayed again due to covid pandemic

Local elections across the North East could be delayed again this year because of the Covid crisis.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 3:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 3:30 pm
Local elections could be delayed again due to the pandemic

Polls scheduled for May 2020 to elect local councillors, metro mayors, and police and crime commissioners across the country were pushed back 12 months under emergency legislation, with the nation in the first lockdown at the time.

But, with a third wave of the virus now sweeping the UK, voters may not be allowed back to polling stations in May 2021 either – with reports suggesting a postponement until the autumn.

The government is reviewing this year’s planned local elections, due to be held on May 6, amid concerns that it could still be unsafe to conduct the polls by then despite the ongoing vaccine rollout.

That could mean delays to local councillor elections in Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Northumberland, and County Durham.

Elections are also due for the North Tyneside elected mayor, as well as for police and crime commissioners for Northumbria and Durham.

Some metro mayor elections are also scheduled to be held, including for the Tees Valley, but North of Tyne Combined Authority mayor Jamie Driscoll’s term runs to 2024.

The County Councils Network, which includes Durham and Northumberland, has called for “urgent clarity” on whether elections can go ahead in May.

Its chairman, David Williams, said: “Continuing speculation about the elections being deferred is unhelpful so we need urgent clarity and a swift decision from the government as soon as possible on whether these elections take place as scheduled.

“If we are left until March or later for a decision to be made, there is a risk that months of hard work from councils would be at risk – and at a time when much of the local effort is on suppressing the virus and keeping day-to-day services running.”

Labour MP Meg Hillier, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, has warned that this year’s elections will have to be delayed.

She told BBC Radio Four: “I can’t see any option but for some delay … I would hate to see a very long delay because it’s really bad for democracy.

“And actually, politicians standing for election want to get on with their elections usually because being held to account by the electorate.”