Council calls for evidence for independent investigation of election problems


Plymouth City Council is asking people affected by electoral administration problems in the lead-up to the General Election on 8 June to tell an independent enquiry about their experiences.

The Council announced last week that an independent investigation would be held after it came to light there had been problems with sending out postal vote packs to people who had applied for them.

The Council has jointly commissioned the investigation with the Electoral Commission and it will cover all issues relating to the election including:

  • The processes and controls around election planning
  • The factors that led to postal voting packs not being received
  • The sequence of events and consequences at each stage
  • An assessment of the overall numbers of voters affected
  • The approach, effectiveness and timeliness of remedial action taken to rectify the issue, once the Council became aware of the scale of the problem
  • The advice and guidance provided by the Electoral Commission regarding the Council’s responsibilities, and their adopted method of resolving the issue
  • The staffing and operation of the election call centre leading up to the day of the election, and on polling day itself
  • The effectiveness of communications, and the way in which customer enquiries were dealt with
  • Evidence of customer interactions including the outcomes and levels of satisfaction
  • The general effectiveness of the elections and electoral registration function, including the capacity and capability of the team
  • The robustness of systems and processes, with a particular focus on applications for, and distribution of postal votes
  • Any other matters that might have influenced the elections process or response to the issues encountered

The investigation will be led by Dr Dave Smith, former chief executive of Sunderland City Council. Dr Smith sat on the Government’s Local Public Data Panel and sits on the Elections and Referendum Steering Group. He is a non-executive board member for the Cabinet Office Electoral Registration Transformation Board and leads on elections and democracy for Solace (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives).

Dr Smith will present the findings and recommendations from his investigation to a meeting of the full Council within the next few months.

The Council is providing all data and information about the administration of the elections process to the investigation. This includes all complaints and contact from members of the public.

Anyone who has further information or comments is urged to provide this to the investigation through a portal that has been set up on the Council’s website. All information and comments submitted through the portal will go direct to Mr Smith.

Anyone wanting to submit information should visit: www.plymouth.gov.uk/electionreview

This will be live from 11am on Thursday 15 June.

Comments should be submitted by Friday 30 June 2017.

Council Leader Ian Bowyer said: “I am deeply concerned by the problems that have occurred with the administration of the General Election and want to be assured that we urgently get to the bottom of what happened and why. The Chief Executive and Acting Returning Officer announced at an early stage that a full and independent external investigation will be held, which is essential as we must ensure that these problems can never recur.

“I have asked that the investigation makes every effort to hear evidence from as many people in Plymouth as possible who have been affected by the problems. This way the investigators will be able to better understand the problems, how and why they happened and how many people were affected.

“For obvious reasons politicians are not directly involved in the administration of elections and while we need to be fully assured that the investigation is very robust and happens quickly, it needs to be fully independent. For this reason, it would be inappropriate for me to say anything that might pre-empt its findings. I do think it is unfortunate that some people are doing their best to make political capital out of these problems, which does a great disservice to those affected by it.

“I would urge anyone who was affected by these problems to share their experiences with the investigations team.”