Council agrees to polling station review in Northampton after complaints of hills and roads barring people from voting

Polling stations in Northampton are set to be reviewed following complaints.
Polling stations in Northampton are set to be reviewed following complaints.

A review of polling stations is set to be conducted in Northampton two years after a report found too many had to cross busy roads and climb steep hills to vote.

In 2012 the council cut the number of places to vote in the town from 125 to 96 prior to the county council elections.

But a year after that the Electoral Commission found some poling stations, such as those in St Davids, Sunnyside and Talavera were either too difficult to access or were having to deal with vast numbers of voters.

The government body issued the council a legal notice to carry out a “complete review” of its polling stations by January 2015.

But when it did review them in 2014, the council made no changes.

But that lack of changes saw the council subject to complaints from the town’s Labour group and 30 members of the public, who sent letters to the Electoral Commission.

This week following pressure from the Commision, the council has agreed to re-assess the situation.

A report to the General Purposes committee this week read: “Whilst this was not a direction, the returning officer has undertaken to the Commission to carry out a complete new review after consulting the leader of the council and the leader of the opposition.”

At the last election, in St Davids Ward there was only one polling station catering for over 3,100 electors.

In Sunnyside ward electors in one polling district had to cross the busy Boughton Green Road.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, Sally Keeble argued the lack of appropriate polling stations would put people off voting.

But the news of an impending full review has been welcomed by the borough council Labour group.

Leader Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “I really welcome this review of polling stations as it’s something I have been calling for some time.

“Previously the borough council reduced the number of polling stations, by approximately 30, as a cost cutting exercise and this now urgently needs to be reviewed. We want polling stations that are close to every voter and most importantly are accessible for the disabled.”

The review is expected to be completed in time for the police and crime commissioner elections next year.