Deadline For Postal Votes

If you wish to register for a postal vote for the May 5 Elections or you wish to change from postal voting to in person voting, you need to have completed a postal vote.

We have attached a PDF copy of the form you need to complete to register for or change from a postal vote.

We would recommend at this late stage, that you take the completed from to the Civic Centre personally to ensure that it is received and will be dealt with in time for the election.

Anyone registered to vote can apply to vote by post, great if you will be at work on election day, on holiday or just can’t make it to the polling station.

The deadline for applying for a postal vote is at 5pm on Thursday 14th April. If you want to cancel your postal vote the same deadline applies.

Image Credit

Alternative Vote

There is a lot in the news already about Alternative Vote or AV and a lot more to come in the coming weeks as parties lobby for a change in the way we vote here in the UK.

What Is AV?
In short Alternative Voting is where, rather than voting for the person you want to elect and putting your paper in the ballot box, you put a 1 by the person you would most like to elect then grade the other candidates by putting 2, 3, 4 etc after their names.

If no candidate gets a majority of all the votes cast in the constituancy, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is removed and their ballot papers are then recounted and redistributed across the remaining candidates based on second preference. This continues, removing the lowest candidate each time until a majority is reached. See the links to the Electoral Reform Society & Wikipedia at the bottom of the page for a more in-depth description.

So How Would things Be Different In Stoke Under AV?
It isn’t possible to tell exactly how things would have played out in Stoke-on-Trent if AV was being used in the 2010 General Election, but by making some basic assumptions you can see how the vote could have been counted to come to a majority in each of the wards.

Stoke-on-Trent North
Round 1

CandidatePartyVote%
Joan WalleyLabour17,81544.3
Andy LargeConservative9,58023.8
John FisherLiberal Democrat7,12017.7
Melanie BaddeleyBNP3,1698
Geoffrey LockeUK Independence Party2,4856.2

Stoke-on-Trent North didn’t have a clear majority in the 2010 General Election so Geoffrey Locke would have been removed from the count, his votes would be redistributed based on second preference in Round 2

Round 2

CandidatePartyVote%
Joan WalleyLabour18,91647.6
Andy LargeConservative10,17125.3
John FisherLiberal Democrat7,56018.8
Melanie BaddeleyBNP3,3958

Still no clear majority so now Melanie Baddeley is removed from the count and her votes are redistibuted based on second preference.

Round 3

CandidatePartyVote
Joan WalleyLabour20,33251
Andy LargeConservative10,93227
John FisherLiberal Democrat8,12620

This is enough to give Joan Walley the 50% majority she needs to retain her seat.

Stoke-on-Trent Central
Round 1

CandidatePartyVote%
Tristram HuntLabour12,60538.8
John RedfernLiberal Democrat 7,039 21.7
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative 6.833 21
Simon DarbyBNP  2,502 7.7
Carol LovattUK Independance Party 1,4024.3 
Paul BreezeIndependant 959 3
Gary ElsbyIndependant 399 1.2
Brian WardCity Independants303  0.9
Alby WalkerIndependant 295 0.9
Matthew WrightTrade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 133 0.4

As the bottom 6 candidates polled only 10.7% of the votes, we can safely skip rounds  2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 leaving just Hunt, Redfern Bhatti & Darby in the vote. At this point the voting would look something like

Round 8

CandidatePartyVote%
Tristram HuntLabour13,96043
John RedfernLiberal Democrat 7,797 24
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative 7,566 23
Simon DarbyBNP  2,771 9

So after the removal of the bottom 6 candidates we are getting closer to a majority, Tristram Hunt has nearly double the number of votes of John Redfern but still not the 50% majority required. Now we take Simon Darbys votes and reallocate them.

Round 9

CandidatePartyVote%
Tristram HuntLabour14,93046
John RedfernLiberal Democrat8,33926
Norsheen Bhatti Conservative8,09225

Still no overall majority of 50% with just 3 of the 11 candidates still in the running, so now we have to take the votes from the third placed candidate and re allocate them.

 

Round 10

CandidatePartyVote%
Tristram HuntLabour17,58154
John RedfernLiberal Democrat9,82230

and finally we have an elected Member of Parliament with a majority of 54% Tristram Hunt. So in Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Stoke-on-Trent South

Round 1

CandidatePartyVote%
Rob FlelloLabour15,44638.8
James RushtonConservative11,316 28.4
Zulfiqar AliLiberal Democrat 6.323 15.9
Michael ColemanBNP 3,762 3.4
Mark BarlowUK Independance Party 1,3633.4
Terry FollowsStaffordshire Independent Group1,208 3
Mark BreezeIndependent4341.1

Again in Stoke-on-Trent South, every candidate up to second placed James Rushton would have to be removed to give Rob Flello the majority required to hold his seat.

Round 6

CandidatePartyVote%
Rob FlelloLabour20,52552
James RushtonConservative15,03438

 

While the results (based on our assumptions) are not shocking they do show how much more work would need to go in to counting the votes.

Alternative Voting Is It Any Better Will It Make A Difference?
Well based on our totally unscientific rerun of the 2010 General Election, no it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome of the election. Until details of how the counts would actually be carried out, it just looks like a lot more work and a far longer night before results are declared.

How Are The Parties Campaigning? 
BNP are campaigning against
Conservatives are campaigning against
English Democrats are are campaigning for
Labour have no official stance
Liberal Democrats are campaigning for
The Green Party are campaigning for
UKIP are campaigning for
 

Assumptions
I made the following assumptions while calculating the new results for each constituency in Stoke-on-Trent.

  • The votes from the lowest candidate in each round were reallocated using the same % as the original vote.
  • A number of votes were lost in each round due to:
    • people not giving second or third preference votes
    • second & thrid preference votes were for candidates already out of the running
    • spoilt papers

Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/ludens/4582962125/

In praise of the New Government

I was talking to a friend about feelings to the new Government. I told him how impressed I was with the vigour in which a coalition Government had set about its task although having my ideological doubts about some aspects of the administration.

He agreed with me. It is the speed and the confidence with which they seem to move that is breath taking. Take one issue, which appeared in the news this week, the question of removing the age barrier of 65 for workers. The Government did this in the face of groups such as Institute of Director’s and the Confederation of British Industry. They did it within a few months. Like that sorted.

When one looks at the way in which New Labour dealt with age discrimination in the work place with voluntary codes before deciding on legislation which came into force in the autumn of 2006, 9 years after they came to power. The pace was leisurely. I have to admit that I have a particular interest in the issue because I suffered from difficulty in finding work since I hit my 40s. I was interested in seeing the social injustice of people being thrown on the scrap heap when they reached a certain age addressed. I had hoped the Labour Government would approach it with some dispatch. I was to be disappointed. If there seems to be one thing that characterised New Labour was its hesitancy and is unwillingness to upset powerful interests such as the CBI. unless one counts the Trade Union Movement.

This directness of the new Government of is refreshing and already the list promised for new acts and legislation is impressive especially when one considers this is a minority government dependent on Liberal Democrat support.

In Education they have already have legislation in place.

In Health the proposed changes are far more sweeping than was ever envisaged by Mrs Thatcher in her pomp when she took on the reform of the Health Service in the late 1980s.

In Law and Order ASBOs have been done away and the Government is pressing ahead with a root and branch review of the Police service. It has also put forward rather pungent changes to the prison service.

A referendum is promised on voting reform for next May when all we had from Labour was the drawn out Jenkins Review on PR of the late 90s before New Labour had a death bed conversion to the principle in the dying days of the Brown Government.

The new Government has successfully sold the idea that wholesale cuts will be required.

Today the Government is setting out its proposal to reform the benefit system making it more simplified and attempting to remove the poverty trap that bites when people move from benefit to work

And in the Big Society the Government seems to have hit a nerve in that people were generally irritated by the “nanny state” approach of the last administration. I experienced myself when I took my 3 month old daughter to a Sure Start Centre in Ellesmere Port in the spring of 2004 to a baby massage treatment to be told by some health visitor that white men do not know how to look after their children. I think the Big Society idea reflects that unfortunately that there were too many agents of the sate who took the view that ordinary people could not be trusted to organise their own lives. And of course it was all backed up with the target culture.

The problem with the Labour Party that all too frequently it helped to put in place some of the structures on which the new Government will build. I signed up to a facebook page that wanted to build a national protest against the new Government’s changes to the NHS. But did not Labour encourage greater use of the private sector into the NHS? Which Government pushed through Foundation status for Hospitals? Who weakened patient rights by abolishing the Community Health Council’s? Was it not Labour who continued the use of the Private Finance Initiative when they came to power in 1997? I seemed to recall Frank Dobson the first Health Secretary quietening critics by saying that PFI “was the only show in town”.

It cannot be helped that Labour has yet to choose its leader, but I consider the choice to be less than overwhelming and all with the exception of Abbot are deeply implicated in the policy decisions of the Labour administration. And in terms of personality the senior figures of the new Government seem to work well together and we do not have the grotesque farce of the eternal triangle of Blair-Brown-Mandelson continually played out consuming so much energy and time.

At the head of the Government we have David Cameron and I feel that his performance on the whole has been superlative. There was his impressive response to the findings of the Saville Inquiry on Bloody Sunday. His more reasoned approach to Britain’s relationship with the US so refreshing compared to the fawning attitude of Blair. His condemnation of the Israeli action against the Palestinians again to Blair’s apologist response to the disproportionate military action in the Lebanon in 2006. I also think that Cameron is right about the Turkish membership of the EU.

I am not a Tory supporter or am I likely to vote Tory but I am pointing out one unvarnished truth to the Labour Party that you use power to get things done and done quickly. The time and energy that New Labour spent in trying to win over the Daily Mail readership in the end was wasted effort. In the end it is about class and promoting your class interest. Labour left office with an indifferent record made the more miserable when one realises that poverty increased to levels last seen in the 1920s despite the much vaunted target on Child Poverty.

The new Government has presented a test example of the Churchillian adage of “action this day”

Election Apathy

Every time there is an election there is always the discussion about apathy of the electorate. How many people are entitled to vote and how many people actually use their vote.

I have done a bit of research in to the general election to see how bad election apathy really is. In the last General Election only 52% of Stoke-on-Trent voters turned out, which is about 13% or around 24,000 people below the national average, which in itself it quite poor.

To put that in some kind of context, we would need the equivalent of the average gate of a Stoke City home game in people exercising their right to vote to bring us in line with the UK average.

Stoke-on-Trent Central was the worst turn out in the city with just 48.4% of the electorate voting. Surprisingly they were not the worst constituency in the UK, not by some way. Our near neighbours Staffordshire South hold the 2005 award for the lowest turn out with a pity-full 37.2% or 25,631 of their electorate turning out to vote.

Stoke-on-Trent Central doesn’t even make it in to the bottom 20 constituencies for the 2005 election!

That is the voters, who we know are quite apathetic, they have been for years. So what about the candidates?

It seems in Stoke-on-Trent they are not much better. As we know this is the first real election campaign that has used the Internet. There are more people tracking and following the election on-line than ever. With the campaigns being far more in the public domain that before it is easy to check and compare what candidates are doing. It is easy to question them on their policies and as a couple of candidates have found out to their cost in the past week or so, it is easy to spot their misdemeanour’s.

Democracy Club have spent a lost of time working with volunteers to build a questionnaire for all General Election candidates to complete. The questionnaire is a mixture of national policy questions and questions gathered from volunteers in the constituencies. The questionnaires have been E-mailed to every candidate that Democracy Club and their volunteers have an E-mail address for.

I have just looked at the 3 constituencies in Stoke-on-Trent and whether the candidates have completed the surveys yet.

Stoke-on-Trent North
John Fisher – Lib Dem
Melanie Baddeley – BNP
Andrew Large – Conservative
Joan Walley – Labour

Have all completed the questionnaire, you can see the results here
Geoff Locke – UKIP has not received the questionnaire yet as there is no E-mail address for him.

Stoke-on-Trent Central
Carol Lovatt – UKIP
John Redfern – Lib Dem

The other 8 candidates in this constituency have as yet not bothered to let the electorate know their answers to the questionnaire. I would have thought in this hotly contested seat the candidates would have used every means possible to engage with their potential voters. You can see the results here

Stoke-on-Trent South

In Stoke-on-Trent South Messrs Ali, Barlow, Breeze, Coleman, Flello, Follows & Rushton are all so confident that they have engaged with their electorate that not one single one of them has bothered to complete the questionnaire.

There isn’t much to see in Stoke-on-Trent South but if you really want to you can see the lack of results here.

Local election candidates don’t fair any better in the apathy stakes, we have contacted as many candidates as we can in the local elections and made it know that we are willing to publish 500 words but pretty much as we expected we have only had a 20% uptake on our offer.

Reduction in Councillors in Stoke-on-Trent

By Mike Rawlins

Councillor Reaction Now Online!

The independent Boundary Committee for England has this morning written to Stoke-on-Trent City Council and announced its initial recommendation on council size for Stoke-on-Trent. Following a consultation held over the summer, the Committee has decided that a council size of 45 will provide the basis for its next round of consultation, which starts today.  The letter from the Boundary Committee to Chris Harman can be read here [PDF]

If this recommendation is passed it will mean a 25% reduction in councillors this equates to a saving of £180,000 on basic allowances for 2011 /12

Max Caller, Chair of the Boundary Committee, said: “We want to make sure that the electoral arrangements for the council work best for all of Stoke’s residents. We’ve looked carefully at all the evidence and rationale we received in support of various council sizes: so far, it points towards a council of 45 members. Â  We’re now starting the second round of consultation in this review, and we’re asking people to submit evidence-based proposals for new ward boundaries within Stoke-on-Trent to us. This stage of the consultation is designed to help us draw the map of what the council wards will look like. We need help from local people to do that, so we want to know what people think of as their community. We’ll consider carefully all evidence that is provided during the next stage of the process. At this stage, none of our decisions are final.”

Further information on electoral reviews and guidance on what sort of information the Committee is looking for should be available at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, in your local library, or on the Boundary Committee’s website at www.boundarycommittee.org.uk and click on “Ëœabout electoral reviews’.

The review is likely to conclude in autumn 2010 when the Boundary Committee makes its final recommendations.

To have your say, please write to:

The Review Officer (Stoke-on-Trent)
The Boundary Committee for England
Trevelyan House
30 Great Peter Street
London
SW1P 2HW

Or email reviews@boundarycommittee.org.uk

This recommendation has drawn the following comments from some of our elected representatives:

Mohammed Pervez: “The Governance Commission Report called for an overall reduction in the number of councillors for Stoke-on-Trent and the Boundary Committee’s recommendations are in line with this.  As a leader of the Labour Group I am committed to the electoral reform required to drive our City forward.  We now need  to ensure that the structure of the ward boundaries best matches the needs of our communities and that there is ample debate over the issue of single member wards.  Strong accountable political leadership is key to any modern electoral reform and we need to move forward with as much consensus as possible.  Over the next year the Labour Party will focus on recruiting high calibre candidates to fight the all out elections in 2011. Â  Our prime focus must be on establishing a system of governance, in Stoke-on-Trent, that will bring a positive change in the lives of people of our City through the delivery of first class services.”

Roger Ibbs: “This is too big a reduction in the number of councillors, we were obviously expecting a reduction in numbers but no one was expecting the number to be reduced to 45”.

“this will not encourage people to enter public service as a reduction in numbers will mean a rise in case work load”

Alby Walker: “This is a knee jerk reaction in my opinion and is aimed at making things as difficult as possible for parties like the BNP”

“The BNP have taken the place of the Labour Party in the eyes of the working man/woman. We are seen as the party with the traditional values. The other parties have become lazy and do not work hard enough in their wards”

Mike Coleman: “This reduction in councillors is all about containing politics. This commission is trying to promote a system that allows the main parties to regulate, control and manage politics in this city”

“The BNP have a fantastic system where we are successful at splitting votes in areas where there has traditionally been a fight between Labour and the Tories. A cut in the number of wards will make it harder for parties like the BNP and the Independents”

“I am very disappointed with this recommendation. It won’t help local democracy and I think Stoke-on-Trent will suffer as a result of this”

Brian Ward: ” The consultation has ignored councillors views. This is a bid to enhance the mainstream parties”

“This is too big a reduction. We were led to believe that there would be between 54-58 councillors”

Kieran Clarke:  ” I’m a bit disappointed that the number of councillors will be reduced to 45″

“We were expecting a 10% decrease in the number of councillors which would be in line with other cities of a similar size and socio-economic make to as Stoke-0n-Trent”

“It is all about how the wards are organised now. The Boundary Commission are very clinical and are not political at all”

“We must make sure the new wards benefit the communities”

Adrian Knapper: ” This is the decision of the commission and we must abide by it”

“We must make sure that the wards are suitable drawn up to ensure that the public get the best representation possible”

“Ward sizes of 4000 electorate to 1 councillor is about right. I think a good councillor can cope with that work load. But we as councillors must ensure that we have the time to scrutinise the executive of the council and the decisions they make It might mean that councillors need some admin support”

Mick Salih: “I’ve got no problem with this at all and in my opinion this is the right move for the city”

“This will make councillors more accountable to their wards. Councillors priority should be to their wards first and the city as a whole after that.”

“A ratio of 4000/1 is about right and those who seek to serve the public will be aware of the workload and what is expected of them before they take office. Through this change as single member wards, councillors will have a greater say in the way their wards are run”

“This should not be about party politics. In local elections I believe that people are more inclined to vote for a person and not a party”

” This should not be about money either, many people do voluntary work in their communities.”

“When these changes come into effect in 2011, I believe we will have better quality councillors and this recommendation will sort the wheat from the chaff!”