Northamptonshire elections postponed for one year due to coronavirus outbreak

The government has announced that the local elections scheduled for May have been postponed for one year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

By James Averill and Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporters
Friday, 13th March 2020, 4:38 pm
The postponement means Northamptonshire will have gone six years without elections for the majority of local councillors
The postponement means Northamptonshire will have gone six years without elections for the majority of local councillors

Residents had been scheduled to head to the polling booths on May 7 to vote for candidates for the new unitary councils in Northamptonshire, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner and various different parish and town councils.

But the decision to postpone them for a year was taken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon. It comes just a day after the Electoral Commission wrote to the government recommending they scrap the elections.

The decision appears to have been a snap one however. At 3.10pm the government issued a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in Northamptonshire to say the elections were still scheduled to go ahead, but by 4pm it had changed that stance.

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That call means that Northamptonshire residents won’t have voted for district or borough councillors in six years - two more than usual - with last year’s elections being cancelled due to the reorganisation of local councils that is taking place.

The postponement of the election also raises questions as to whether the April 2021 start date for the two new unitary authorities - North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council - will also have to be delayed.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We have been made aware that the local elections will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We will be liaising with Government to see what this means for the county in terms of the reorganisation to unitary governance but currently our main priority is preparing for and responding to the issues raised by the coronavirus and to ensure the safety of residents."

The May elections would have voted in councillors that would have first sat on a ‘shadow’ council for a year in preparation for the 2021 launch date. In that period, the remaining county council and the seven district and borough councils would have continued to deliver services before being abolished on the day the unitary councils started.

A cabinet office spokesman said: "The cabinet office will bring forward legislation to postpone, local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner election until May next year. We will also work with the devolved administration to make sure they have the necessary powers to do the same."