A ‘sad day’ for democracy as councillors mark what would have been election day

Voters would have been heading to the ballot box today, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of all local elections in the UK.Voters would have been heading to the ballot box today, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of all local elections in the UK.
Voters would have been heading to the ballot box today, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of all local elections in the UK. | jpimedia
Councillors have labelled today a ‘sad day for democracy’ – marking what would have been the chance for Northamptonshire residents to cast their votes in the local elections.

Voters would currently have been heading to the ballot boxes in order to choose candidates for the new shadow unitary council – West Northamptonshire Council – which will operate behind the scenes for one year before replacing the county and district councils next April. Votes would also have been cast to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner, and various parish and town councils – including a new Northampton Town Council – would have held votes too.

It now marks five years since residents voted for councillors for Northampton Borough Council and South Northamptonshire Council. The last elections for Northamptonshire County Council were held in 2017, while Daventry District Council holds staggered elections – with votes for a third of councillors last taking place in 2018.

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The suspension of the elections this year, due to the coronavirus, follows on from them being postponed in 2019 due to the reorganisation of local government in Northamptonshire. And this latest delay means that a number of district and borough councillors will have served for six years – two beyond their original mandate – when next year’s elections are finally held.

Councillor Sally Beardsworth, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Northampton Borough Council, said: “It’s a terribly sad day for democracy. It’s just unfortunate because of the unitaries last year and now because of the coronavirus.”

The Conservative leader of Daventry District Council, Richard Auger, said the situation was a ‘perfect storm’. Councillor Auger, who is also a county councillor, said: “The first delay was due to the unitary reorganisation and then the next one has been because of COVID-19. The electorate has not had the opportunity that they would have normally had. I think it’s unfortunate, but circumstances have conspired to put us in this position. But I think all parties are not entirely happy with the delay in giving the public a chance, but I don’t think there has been any political conspiring.”

And Danielle Stone, the leader of the Labour group in Northampton, added: "It's another year without a say, so it's a sad day for democracy."

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