Hackney Council replaces ‘substandard’ election team ahead of polling days

A polling station sign outside the Assembly Halls of Hackney Town Hall on the day of the General Ele

A polling station sign outside the Assembly Halls of Hackney Town Hall on the day of the General Election. Picture: PA - Credit: PA WIRE

The team who oversaw a shambolic General Election at Hackney Council have been replaced ahead of the London Mayoral ballot and the EU Referendum.

The town hall has acted on a damning report by the Electoral Commission by employing a new team to oversee the “significant challenges” posed by having the two polling days so close together.

Last year, 1,300 people nearly missed out on their vote after staff failed to get to grips with the new Individual Electoral Registration system.

Officers were forced to send out emergency lists to polling stations with the names of people who were not on the electoral register but who had signed up to vote in good time.

The commission’s report said the town hall did not meet elements of the performance standards required.

And a council report published ahead of a meeting last week revealed the former elections manager, deputy manager and a senior elections officer had “left the authority”.

It said a new elections manager had started earlier this month, while an electoral registration manager and principal elections officer had also been recruited.

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The council report stated planning was on schedule for the GLA elections and council by-elections on May 5, as well as the EU Referendum on June 23.

Canvassing has also been stepped up as the council aims to get as many people on the electoral register as possible, after failing to submit its registration data to the Electoral Commission by the December deadline.

The council’s returning officer Tim Shields said: “Individual Electoral Registration is the biggest ever shake up of how we register to vote. The new system was fast tracked by government and we had some problems implementing it in Hackney in the run-up to the 2015 elections.

“Straight after the elections, I ordered a strategic review of the service and the system we use.

“We have successfully transferred or registered over 164,000 residents on to the new system and, while holding an election and a referendum so closely together will pose significant challenges, we are confident we have taken the steps needed to ensure the two polling days run as smoothly as possible.”