Agenda item

Agenda item

Questions from Councillors

To receive members’ questions under procedure rule no.11.  The procedure rule provides that any member may ask the chairman of a board or group any question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the District, provided that three clear days’ notice in writing has been given to the Head of Legal and Support Services.


Councillor J Geary put the following question to Councillor T J Pendleton:

On the 17th October, travellers once again moved onto the town centre car park for the third time in little than twelve months.

Back in 1996, I first pointed out to the council the need for this council to develop a warden controlled traveller site similar to the one at Aston Firs, Sapcote Road, Burbage, within our district, to reduce the impact and costs of travellers setting up camp on district or county council owned land.

The council has now to undertake an assessment of their needs before we are able to move them on, when the only thing really needed is a controlled site within North West Leicestershire to accommodate them.

We are all aware of the need for such a site within our District Plan so could you please give me some indication as to when such a facility is likely to be achieved”.


Councillor T J Pendleton gave the following response:


The need to make provision for gypsies and travellers is something which the Council is aware of. We have been working to identify potential sites since early in 2016. This has included two separate ‘call-for-sites’ issued to landowners, parish and town councils and residents. Unfortunately neither of these ‘call-for-sites’ resulted in any potential sites being notified to the council. At the same time officers have been, and are, looking at a variety of potential sources of sites and to date over 500 sites have been looked at. When the current assessment has been completed a report will be taken to a meeting of the Local Plan Committee for it to consider how to take this issue forward as part of the Local Plan”.


As a supplementary question, Councillor J Geary requested an estimated timescale for the needs assessment and details of the 500 sites which had already been considered. 


Councillor T J Pendleton responded that it would be difficult to specify a timetable for the needs assessment, however it would coincide with the review of the Local Plan.  He added that details of the sites could be requested from the Planning Policy Team Manager. 



Councillor T Eynon put the following question to Councillor N J Rushton:


It has been announced that North West Leicestershire is one of the eleven local authorities across England taking part in Voter ID pilots for the 2019 local elections. The pilots are intended to provide further insight into how best to ensure the security of the voting process and reduce the risk of voter fraud.

Of the four models of Voter ID checks:

• photo ID
• photo and non-photo ID
• traditional poll cards
• poll cards with scannable barcodes

I understand that North West Leicestershire is to test making it mandatory for electors to bring their poll cards with them when they vote.


(1)          What is the current estimated prevalence of voter fraud in elections in North West Leicestershire?

(2)          How will the post-intervention prevalence of voter fraud be measured?

(3)          What impact if any will there be on the process for postal votes?

(4)          How will North West Leicestershire be communicating this change to electors?

(5)          How will this communication campaign be funded?”


Councillor N J Rushton gave the following response:


(1)          There is no evidence of voter fraud in North West Leicestershire. However, in August 2016 Eric Pickles published a report on electoral integrity in general, which set out a number of recommendations, one of which was to introduce a requirement for ID to be shown at polling stations. Before agreeing to this recommendation, the Cabinet Office wanted to satisfy itself of the best model to adopt in order to achieve this. There were 5 pilots carried out last year, but the Electoral Commission asked that these pilots be extended across the country to capture differing demographics and locations. NWLDC was invited to assist with this initiative in order to help shape the future of elections across the country.

(2)          Whilst NWLDC does not have an issue with voter fraud, we were invited to assist in the pilot process to help change the perception of voters in general. The Cabinet Office will carefully analyse all the data collected from each pilot Authority to ascertain the future direction of election management based on the findings.

(3)          A different process is undertaken to verify postal votes and this has been in place since 2007. This process verifies identity by matching the signatures on the postal vote application form with those on the statements which accompany the postal ballot papers. We use sophisticated software for this matching process followed by a manual check and sign-off by the Deputy Returning Officers. This process will not be affected by being a pilot voter ID authority.

(4)          Each local authority is required to develop a public awareness campaign plan in line with the Government Communications Service guidance. This helps provide assurance to the Cabinet Office that our public awareness campaign will be effective, evaluated and provide good value for money for the taxpayer.

Our Communications Team has the support of the Cabinet Office Communications Team in all campaign planning. They have met once already and will meet fortnightly in the run up to the election in 2019. The Cabinet Office have already provided us with example campaign plans and templates and evaluation templates, which we will now use to develop our own campaign.


Our campaign will include social media activity, digital media work, press announcements and printed publicity, and will include regular updates to all parish councils and elected members.  Further, a legal order will be made to enable NWLDC to change the wording on its poll cards advising electors that they will need to retain it and take it with them to the polling station in order to vote.


(5)           The Cabinet Office will be funding all aspects of the Voter ID Pilot. In addition, the Communications Team will benefit from any training required to run the campaign successfully”.


Councillor T Eynon commented that she was pleased to see that there was no evidence of voter fraud so it would be difficult to see how this pilot would reduce that.  She added that the real risks were postal voter manipulation and voter registration.  As a supplementary question, she asked whether the communications campaign would address the more integral concerns in North West Leicestershire.


Councillor N J Rushton responded that there was no voter fraud in North West Leicestershire and he welcomed the fact that the council had been chosen for the pilot.  He referred members to the response which addressed the issue raised relating to postal votes.  He added that the social media campaign would hopefully increase voter turnout.


The Chief Executive clarified that arrangements would be put in place for the replacement of poll cards and to ensure people were able to vote.  She added that communication had already commenced with a radio interview earlier in the week.

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