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Local Government

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 7 October 2008

My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As I told the House on 20 May 2008, we have published a consultation document, inviting views on whether or not we should, subject to parliamentary approval, move the date of the English local elections from Thursday 7 May 2009 to Thursday 4 June 2009, the same day as the European parliamentary election. That consultation closed on 11 August, and we have received 278 representations, including from the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Local Government Association, many of the councils that would be affected and a number of the political parties.

There was a large measure of support among consultees, including the Electoral Commission, for moving the date of the English local elections in 2009. A number of consultees also made representations about various practical measures they believe we should take if the date of the local elections is to be moved.

I am today placing in the Library of the House a document summarising the representations we have received and setting out the Government’s response. This document is also available on the departmental website.

Having carefully considered all the representations received, I am also today laying a draft Local Elections (Ordinary Day of Elections in 2009) Order 2008 which, if approved by Parliament and made no later than 7 November 2008, would move the local election day in England, in 2009, to the date of the European parliamentary election, planned for Thursday 4 June. The order also makes incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as a consequence of that change of date, including provision for the European elections in England in 2009 to be administered on local government boundaries.

The local elections which would be affected by this change of date are the elections to all county councils in two-tier areas, the unitary Isle of Wight County Council, Bristol City Council and the new unitary councils of Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Shropshire and Wiltshire; a limited number of parish councils and the mayoral elections in Doncaster, Hartlepool, North Tyneside and Stoke.

We believe that avoiding elections on two separate occasions within a month will be more convenient for voters, less costly for the taxpayer and more efficient for electoral administrators. As in 2004, holding the local elections alongside the European elections in 2009 could help boost voter turnout and improve the democratic process.