Colchester insists election count will be safe

Colchester's count in 2019

Officials at Colchester are confident the count can be carried out safely. - Credit: JAKE FOXFORD

Colchester Borough Council's returning officer Adrian Pritchard has sent this response to Paul Geater's column about this year's local elections and the counts that will follow them.

Anyone reading Paul Geater’s recent article would be left with the impression that Colchester Borough Council was not taking the safety of all those involved in the elections and counts seriously.

I can assure everyone that the outlandish comments that we may be doing something that would be ‘downright dangerous in terms of spreading Covid’ are totally and utterly untrue.

This council is totally committed to the safety of everyone who will be involved in the elections, from the voters to the people counting the ballots, the candidates and their supporters.

We have been on the front foot for elections planning, collaborating with Essex County Council’s director of public health, health and safety and elections leads across Essex.

We are in the process of finalising these plans to ensure they are robust, safe and lawful. This includes when individual counts will be held and how we can socially distance people at the count themselves.

We are making steps to ensure all the polling stations needed on May 6 will be Covid-secure and each venue has undergone a risk assessment.

However, we are also undertaking a big push to encourage people to take up postal voting as we fully understand some people may not want to come out but still want to exercise their legal right to vote.

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We have already begun writing to the clinically extremely vulnerable, encouraging them to use a postal vote as a precautionary shielding measure.

Throughout this pandemic our staff have been working tirelessly with a wide range of partners to not just support residents and businesses through lockdown – but to drive the rates of the virus down in Colchester.

I am disappointed that the article has been written without myself as the returning officer in Colchester and the police area returning officer for Essex being given the chance to respond.

I would have been able to confirm the very secure arrangements being made for conducting these elections and quash the fake claims that have been made in the article.

Any suggestion that we are going to throw that hard work away on election night is totally false.

Adrian Pritchard

Returning officer for elections in Colchester and police area returning officer for Essex

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