A progress check on the overhaul of the way Plymouth City Council manages elections has taken place with the return visit of the Independent Investigator Dr Dave Smith.
He has concluded that the Council is in a strong position to deliver local elections in May provided it continues to have a firm focus on operational procedures and ensures there is a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and appropriate delegations within the Electoral Service.
The Council now needs to ensure the full integration of the new Electoral Services Management system and deliver a safe and timely transition of responsibility for helping people with straightforward election queries over to the Customer Service Team.
Dr Smith said: “The Council has acted with rigour and focus to address the improvements needed. The pace of change has ensured it is in a strong position to deliver local elections in May 2018. Councillors and officers have shown a real will to challenge and support improvement. The Council has delivered an effective canvass and has done much to promote registration and elections as a whole Council issue. There has been a renewed focus on effective communications. To make sure this progress is sustainable the Council needs to continue to provide leadership and operational grip.”
Dr Smith spent three days at the Council interviewing a range of people involved with the Electoral Service and other services supporting them. He wanted to be sure that the Council had implemented the key recommendations from his report in September.
Acting Returning Officer (ARO) and Chief Executive, Tracey Lee, said: “We are totally committed to ensuring we are ready to deliver the local elections in May. We’ve done a lot of work to overhaul the way the Electoral Service is delivered and supported by the rest of the Council’s services. It’s great to hear Dr Smith’s conclusions but we won’t be taking our eye off the ball.”
The findings of Dr Smith’s report were examined at a meeting of the cross party councillor review group on 14 February.
Council Leader Ian Bowyer welcomed Dr Smith’s return he said: “It’s important for all councillors that both they and our voters have complete confidence in the Council’s Electoral Service. The expert, independent view of Dr Smith is critical in providing that reassurance.”
Adrian Green, Regional Manager for the Electoral Commission, said: “We have supported the Council as it has shown its clear commitment to deliver improvements to electoral services. We are pleased that our performance standards are being used to measure progress and we will continue to be involved providing challenge, guidance and advice in the run up to the May elections.”