Venue: in Meeting Room 2, 135 Eastern Avenue, Milton Park, Milton, OX14 4SB
Contact: Steven Corrigan, Democratic Services Manager
Apologies for absence
To receive apologies for absence.
To adopt and sign as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2015 attached.
RESOLVED: to approve the minutes of the meeting held on 6 January 2015 as a correct record and agree that the Chairman sign them as such.
Declarations of interest
To receive any declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests in respect of items on the agenda for this meeting; and any other relevant interests.
Final report of the Returning Officer on the delivery of the May 2015 Elections - Henley, Oxford West and Abingdon and Wantage parliamentary constituencies; South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse districts; and various parish and town councils PDF 148 KB
To consider the returning officer’s final report into the delivery of the May 2015 elections – attached.
Mr John Fox addressed the committee on his views concerning Wheatley Merry Bells polling station at the May elections.
His address covered the following points:
· The rights of tellers were not clear in the Electoral Commission guidance;
· The tellers did not wear name tags;
· The apron and wooden porchway on the front of the Merry Bells polling station had multiple tellers which was intimidating for some voters;
· The tellers were asking for detailed information from voters, sometimes in an aggressive manner.
David Buckle, Returning Officer, explained that neither the presiding officer nor the polling station inspector had reported any problems at the polling station. There was a police liaison officer on duty that day. Any reported issues would have been dealt with by the police, who are responsible for matters outside of the polling station. Officers agreed to inform the Electoral Commission of Mr Fox’s comments regarding their guidance for tellers and to attach his letter to the minutes of this meeting.
The returning officer presented his final report to the committee. The committee discussed the following issues:
· Paragraph 19 regarding the absent votes which were not sent abroad. The returning officer explained that although this was an unfortunate error, it was mitigated by offering proxy votes to those affected. An estimated 123 voters, at most, were affected across the three parliamentary constituencies.
· Paragraph 21 concerning the second issue of absent votes in Oxford City. This error was due to a data transfer issue. The returning officer referred to his recommendation that protocols for data transfer with both Oxford City and Cherwell should be put in place ahead of the next cross boundary election to ensure this error is not repeated.
· Paragraph 18 which details parish ballot papers for Watlington parish were erroneously sent to voters in North Hinksey and Wheatley. Officers clarified that this was only the second issue of postal votes which were sent out so only small numbers of electors were effected, about 70 in each instance. This issue was quickly identified and those affected were hand delivered a correct ballot paper within 24 hours of the error being discovered.
· Willowbrook polling station. Officers explained that as this was the only station which there were significant queues, it was not thought to be an issue with staffing levels. The combination of the parliamentary, district and parish elections meant issuing ballot papers took more time. In order to improve the situation polling station inspectors were sent out to manage queues with police assistance. Officers would review the provision of polling places prior to the next scheduled elections in May 2016.
· The use of counting sheets rather than grass skirts as a method for counting votes. The committee agreed that grass skirts offered a more transparent method of counting. Officers agreed to review the options for counting votes in multi-member wards in time for the district and parish elections in 2019.
The committee discussed the order and accuracy of the electoral registers. Officers clarified that work was currently being ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To consider the report of the head of legal and democratic services on a community governance petition submitted by the Great Western Park Residents’ Association – attached.
Mr David Slingo (vice-chairman) and Mr John Boden (chairman) of the Great Western Park Residents Association addressed the committee in support of a petition to establish a new parish council for that part of Great Western Park within South Oxfordshire. Mr Slingo clarified that although the petition was not submitted in time for the previous community governance review, the Residents Association still considered it a pertinent and valid petition. Mr Boden then addressed the committee and summarised the reasons, contained in the letter attached to the report of the head of legal and democratic services to this meeting, why the Great Western Park Residents Association would like to establish a parish council.
The committee considered the report of the head of legal and democratic services on a petition request fora community governance review of the Great Western Park area of South Oxfordshire. The committee considered that because the majority of development had not been completed it would be premature to undertake a review. Any consultation conducted now would not take into account the views of the numerous future residents of the area. The committee agreed that a review should not commence until the construction and occupation of 75% of the homes on Great Western Park.
RESOLVED: not to undertake a community governance review of Great Western Park (the establishment of a parish council for the area) at this time, but to review the situation when 75% of the development is complete and occupied.
Further community governance review requests
As referred to in paragraph 5 of the report at agenda item 5 the district wide community governance review undertaken in 2013/14 included proposals put forward by parish councils. The committee is requested to consider whether officers should invite parish councils to request any further community governance reviews. These need not necessarily relate to boundaries they could, for example, be to review a parish council name or the number of councillors serving on it.
The committee considered whether to invite parish councils to submit further proposals for changes to community governance arrangements. The committee considered that as a major review had just been undertaken the council would deal with issues on an ad hoc basis in response to requests rather than inviting another full review.