Electoral Commission calls for May elections to be postponed amid Covid-19 fears

The Electoral Commission has recommended local elections be postponed, citing that there are “real risks” to holding votes in May.

The independent body has recommended to ministers that the votes should be postponed until the autumn due to the “unprecedented times” surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

Mayoral, council and police and crime commissioner candidates are all due to contest an election on May 7.

In a letter to Chloe Smith, Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, the commission said a decision would be needed before local authorities carry out any further preparations.

“Clearly any decisions to delay elections which are due is significant and would not normally be desirable; however, we are in unprecedented times,” wrote the commission’s chief executive Bob Posner.

“The risks to delivery that have been identified are such that we cannot be confident that voters will be able to participate in the polls safely and confidently, nor that campaigners and parties will be able to put their case to the electorate.

“We therefore call on the Government to take steps to provide early clarity to all those with an interest in the electoral process; and on the available information and position we recommend the Government now delay the 7 May polls until the autumn.”

Ms Smith, in response to a written parliamentary question released on Thursday about the Government’s election contingency plans, said: “The Government continues to assess the impact of Covid-19 and is reviewing any implications for the delivery of public services on an ongoing basis.

“Our approach has been, and will continue to be, guided by the evidence and latest advice from medical experts, including the chief medical officer.

“We are currently working to facilitate the local, mayoral, and police and crime commissioner elections on May 7 going ahead as planned.

“We will of course continue to monitor the situation, and we are developing our responses and contingency plans as necessary.”