North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has spoken out following North Norfolk District Council’s decision to close a number of polling stations across the constituency. At Wednesday’s NNDC Full Council meeting, the council resolved to close polling stations in Matlaske, Sustead, Bale, Ingworth, and Sidestrand. Duncan spoke during the meeting to express his disapproval, and voted against the measure.
Speaking after the meeting he said:
Changes which may seem minor and bureaucratic to the councils making them can have an enormous impact on those affected by such changes. These polling stations may cater only to small numbers of voters but the right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy. We should be doing everything possible to make it easier, not harder, for people in our most rural communities to use their democratic voice and exercise their right to choose who will represent them.
It is not good enough to suggest – as the Council Leader did – that these voters can move over to postal voting or travel to neighbouring villages when that is perhaps difficult or inconvenient. The fact they turn up to a polling station means they want to vote at a polling station. That is their right.
For me it is about a principle. This is part of a gradual but continuous erosion of village life. We are seeing shops, post offices, and banks ripped out of our communities – and now polling stations too. It’s disturbing to see a council that should be standing up for our small communities contributing to that decline.
Whilst it is gratifying that NNDC should be so keen to save what are relatively small sums of money by closing polling stations, I suggest it’s the bigger ticket items – such as the nearly £500,000 they’ve just spent on management restructuring during a pandemic – where the real savings could be made. It seems this council just hasn’t got its priorities right.”