Hertfordshire councillors support government decision to postpone local elections

The decision to postpone the elections has been acknowledged and supported by councillors

Councillors from across the political divide in Hertfordshire have supported the government’s decision to postpone the local elections.

Hertfordshire County Council offices

Hertfordshire County Council offices

Elections for seats on a number of district and borough councils across the county had been scheduled for May 7.

But now the Cabinet Office has announced that those local elections – as well as the scheduled police and crime commissioner election – will be postponed for 12 months, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, elections for district and borough councils, the county council and for the police and crime commissioner – which are usually staggered- will all be held in May 2021.

The decision to postpone the elections has been acknowledged and supported by councillors from across the political spectrum.

Conservative Cllr Teresa Heritage, who is deputy leader of Hertfordshire County Council and a member of St Albans City and District Council, believes it was the right decision.

She said Party members had already expressed concern that canvassing for the district and borough elections could spread the virus – putting canvassers and residents at greater risk.

And she welcomed the timing of the decision – before canvassing for the local elections had started in earnest.

However she said the decision would mean some councillors who had already indicated they intended to step down at the next election would have to continue for another 12 months.

Leader of the county coucil’s Labour group Cllr Judi Biling – who is also a member of North Herts District Council – said she ‘fully supported’ the decision.

She said elections weren’t just about going to a polling station with a stubby pencil, but door-knocking and talking to people on doorsteps. And she said that would be “totally inappropriate at this time”.

She said the reality of keeping people safe trumped any party political concerns about which seats might be won or lost.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst – who is also a member of Three Rivers District Council – said he had not been surprised by the decision to postpone the local elections.

“In the circumstances I think it was all that could happen,” he said.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat Cllr Chris White – who is a county councillor and leader of St Albans City and District Council – also accepted the decision.

Earlier this month he had spoken out to quash rumours that the local elections might be postponed – after seeing rumours on social media.

But following the decision by the government he agreed it was the right action to take – and he said that things had ‘moved on’.

He said the issue wasn’t so much a function of the election process itself, but of the staffing pressure it would put on district councils – when staff could be doing other things.