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Parish Polls

Volume 547: debated on Monday 2 July 2012

4. What discussions he has had with local authorities on reforming the electoral rules relating to parish polls; and if he will make a statement. (114389)

I have regular conversations with local authorities on a wide range of issues, including electoral matters. Parish polls are the most local means of giving communities an opportunity to have their say by voting on a range of issues, from bus shelters and community centres to the installation of CCTV cameras. However, we recognise the current electoral rules are outdated and can be a barrier to local people’s participation in those polls. When an appropriate legislative opportunity arises, we will therefore reform the rules.

I thank the Minister for that very positive answer. Such polls are not just used for bus shelters. We had a parish—or town—poll in Dover on the future of the port of Dover and 98% voted in favour of the people’s port community ownership model, which was the right way forward. The rules are that polls are open between 4 and 9 and there are no postal votes, no proxy votes and no poll cards. That discriminates against the elderly, the disabled and those who work. Does the Minister agree that we need change quite urgently?

I hope that I have shown that I am on the same side as my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to him for his work on the poll in Dover. He observes that some parish and town councils serve large populations. As the rules are set out in the schedule to primary legislation, we need a legislative means of reforming them, but we are looking for that.