Northampton councillors looking forward to being allowed to canvas in-person again ahead of May elections
'It will be very welcome when we are allowed to do that again as it's a great way of keeping in touch with constituents'
Northampton councillors are looking forward to getting back out on the doorstep from next week after the government allowed election campaigning to return.
Political activists would usually be pounding the pavements up and down the country two months before the May council elections but the coronavirus lockdown has outlawed canvassing.
But the Cabinet Office announced on Friday (February 26) that covid-secure, one-to-one outdoor leafleting and door-knocking can return from Monday (March 8).
Councillor Danielle Stone, the leader of the Labour group at Northampton Borough Council, said canvassing is the best way to hear what issues residents want resolving most.
"Politicians like going out on the doorstep as we enjoy meeting people and we like finding out what they care about from them first-hand," she said.
"So it will be very welcome when we are allowed to do that again as it's a great way of keeping in touch with constituents."
The elections on May 6, will give voters in Northampton the first chance in six years to decide who should represent them.
The 2019 elections were put back by the change to unitary authorities and last year's were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
So not only have these elections been a long time coming, it will be the first for the new West Northamptonshire Council, which will have taken over from the county and borough councils.
The local governance review has also seen the establishment of Northampton town and Far Cotton and Kingsthorpe community councils, so the election will give people a chance to vote for their members too.
Councillor Mike Hallam, leader of the Conservative group at the town council, said the campaign will be different to normal but will still be enjoyable hearing people's views.
"We're more looking forward to having more interaction with people but we are looking forward to talking to people as part of the election campaign as restrictions are lifted," he said.
From Monday, rules will allow for individual campaigners to deliver leaflets and to engage with electors on their doorsteps but they should always be socially distanced and not enter inside people’s homes.
Campaigners should ensure that all necessary mitigations are applied including social distancing, sanitising hands and wearing face coverings.
From March 29, the planned provision for six people or two households to meet outdoors will allow activists to campaign in covid-safe groups.
Independent borough councillor for Far Cotton, Julie Davenport, queried whether canvassing was really essential when people are being told to stay at home.
"They can call people, I'm sure they have been doing that, but it is what it is, we've got to accept it and stick to the rules but I don't think it should going ahead," she said.
Some have questioned whether the elections should be going ahead in the first place but the councillors believe it is more important to go ahead, especially after the delays.
Cllr Stone said: "We feel it's time we had a democratic mandate so we're looking forward to it.
"I know the election officers are a lot of trouble to make things safe at polling stations and there's a big push for postal voting."