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Eric Pickles seeks official information about the extent of plans to switch general election counts to Friday

SaveElectionNight graphic With the number of MPs who have signed the Save General Election Night early day motion almost standing at 200, and the Facebook group membership having almost reached 5,500, Tory chairman Eric Pickles has been seeking further information about the extent of plans by Returning Officers to switch counting at the next general election to the Friday morning.

In one written question last week, he received an assurance that local authorities do not need to bear the costs of running elections. Justice Minister Michael Wills replied:

"Returning officers are entitled to recover their charges in respect of services rendered or expenses incurred at parliamentary elections if they were necessarily rendered or incurred for the efficient and effective conduct of the election and they do not exceed the overall maximum recoverable amount specified in an Order made by the Secretary of State. Provision is made for this purpose from the consolidated fund."

In a separate question, addressed to Gary Streeter in his capacity representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, he asked "what information the Electoral Commission has collected about the number of local authorities considering commencing their counts at the next general election on the day after polling day?"

The reply was as follows:

"The Electoral Commission informs me that it wrote to Returning Officers for all UK parliamentary constituencies in September 2009 requesting information about when they intend to begin the counting of ballot papers for the UK parliamentary general election.

"As of 21 October 2009, the Commission informs me that it had received responses from Returning Officers for 247 out of 650 constituencies. Returning Officers for 134 constituencies reported that they planned to begin counting on the evening of polling day. Returning Officers for 27 constituencies reported that they planned to begin counting on the morning of the day following polling day. Returning Officers for 86 constituencies reported that they had not yet decided when they would begin counting. Over the coming weeks the Commission will be actively seeking responses from Returning Officers who have yet to reply.

"A spreadsheet detailing responses received by constituency, at 21 October 2009, has been placed in the House of Commons Library. This information is also available on the Commission website and will be updated regularly."

The spreadsheet is available to view here, although 247 out of 650 seems a very poor response rate after a month. Watch this sapce for further details...

Jonathan Isaby


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