- Posted by: Hillingdon Labour
- Category: Leader's Blog
The Labour Group is always open to any review of the Borough’s Polling Districts that may be necessary to improve our local democracy. However, the latest reshuffle of polling stations conducted by the Hillingdon administration appears to be nothing more than an attempted cost-saving exercise that will inconvenience many a voter, and thus risks reducing voter turnout.
Across the Borough the review proposes to remove a total of 8 polling districts, and despite the large number of new homes built there are no proposals to increase the number of polling districts within any single ward.
Amongst several districts losing polling stations there are two in particular that I have concerns about. The first is located in Botwell Ward just below the railway line. If the proposals go ahead voters would be forced to make their way across the railway line and through the town centre to get to the polling station at Botwell House RC School. There are a large number of elderly people living in this area. The journey would be extremely inconvenient and troublesome. Too far to walk for many, it would result in increased traffic on small residential streets or the need for people to travel by bus just to vote. In fact it could be argued that increasing polling districts would be more appropriate for this location given that there will be a large increase in electors in this area due to plans to build 1,137 new residential units.
The second district of particular concern is located in Heathrow Villages Ward with its polling station at Sipson Lane. This is a small district, however its geography makes it rather separate from its neighbouring polling districts. If its polling station were removed, electors on the extreme southern edge would be 2.5 miles from their nearest polling station and would only be able to access it by car or public transport. The public transport route could take around 40 minutes each way. Such a proposal is completely unreasonable.
Again, we believe an increase, re-instating the Cranford Cross district, would be more appropriate in this ward. In the May elections many voters in this area found it hard to reach their polling station. They had to travel by bus or take the car, with the additional difficulty of parking.
Accessibility of polling stations strongly influences voter turnout so any review of Polling Districts should look at ways to make voting easier and more convenient, not more difficult and costly for the individual. Moreover, we do not believe that the proposed arrangements will actually lead to any meaningful savings at all, each polling station requiring only 3 staff members to run.
Of course the reduction in polling districts certainly affects some Conservative Wards as well as our own Labour Wards. Whilst I don’t consider it my place to comment on polling arrangements in Conservative constituencies the Labour Group are certainly ready to offer support, if requested, to any effort to protect those polling districts in other constituencies where their abolition would severely inconvenience voters. Similarly, we hope to receive the same support from all elected representatives within the Hayes and Harlington Constituency, irrespective of party-political lines. This issue is not about party politics, it is about nothing less than the health of local democracy.
Cllr Mo Khursheed
Leader of The Labour Group
London Borough of Hillingdon