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Appointment of Chairman
RESOLVED that Councillor L Mallett be appointed Chairman for the purpose of this meeting.
To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors M Glass and R Hunter, with Councillors A Beaumont and J King attending as substitutes respectively.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.
The minutes of the meeting of the Electoral Matters Committee held on 29th September 2020 were submitted.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Electoral Matters Committee held on 29th September 2020 be approved as a correct record.
The Electoral Services Manager presented the report and in so doing highlighted the following:
· The results of the survey and questionnaire which went out to all households in the Stoke parish area, consultation was for 14 October, originally up to 14th December, but the Committee had agreed to extend this to 28th December 2020.
· 265 paper forms had been returned and 53 had been made via the website, that was a 15% return from households. There was also a submission from the Parish Council and a separate written response from a resident of the parish.
· The main question was “did residents want a new parish to be created from the Stoke Heath ward”. 116 residents were for the creation of a new parish and 197 against. In the Stoke Heath ward 60 were for and 61 were against.
· The Committee needed to consider whether there was due regard for community cohesion between the areas within the parish. The question was asked did the parish create a feeling of local community for and including electors in Stoke Heath. 154 thought it did create a feeling of community and 138 said there was not. In looking just at Stoke Heath 44 said there was and 68 said there was not.
· The question was then asked to the reasons why there was or was not that feeling of community cohesion (as detailed in appendices 1 and 2 of the report). The main areas highlighted appeared to be the central use of the recreation ground, the parish newsletter and events held in the parish. A number felt that the parish council concentrated on Stoke Prior and the newsletter put Stoke Prior first and in some cases, Stoke Heath residents felt ignored and that it was two areas of different environments.
· The third question was would you be interested in standing as a parish council. 277 had said no and 20 had responded yes.
· The residents were then asked if the changes were to happen, if they had any suggestions as to any different names for the parishes. The current Ward names were the most supported with 77% of the respondents said Stoke Prior and Stoke Heath. There were however a number of other suggestions including Stoke Works, Charford South and Stoke and Avoncroft and Stoke Heath.
· Consultees were finally asked to give any other comments, and these were detailed in appendix 3 to the report. There were a number of different remarks, but three in particular came up a number of times, concerns about the cost of council tax for the new parishes to be created, the area Polling District RHA (Stoke Heath ward) did not contain the whole of Stoke Heath and it was suggested that it should include Polling District AVB as well as RHA, and that the number of Councillors representing each ward should be reviewed.
· The response from the Parish Council was attached at appendix 4 and they were in support of the status quo and the response ... view the full minutes text for item 14/2020
Polling Station Changes - Verbal Update
The Electoral Services Manager confirmed that at the current time it was still proposed that elections would take place in May 2021, this would be combined Worcestershire County Council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Bromsgrove. His team had been doing work around contacting all Polling Station to ensure that they were Covid Secure. Members were reminded that this was a verbal update, as outside the mandatory Polling Places review, which was carried out in 2019, delegated authority was given to the Returning Officer in consultation with the Ward Member and the Portfolio Holder to make decision on any changes to polling places.
The Electoral Services Manager provided updates on the following Polling Stations, where different options were being considered, due to the nature of the station:
· Rubery Sports and Social Club – Polling District RNA
The function room at the rear was unavailable, due to building works. It was hoped that this would be available for future elections, but for May 2021 the potential to move back to Holywell School or perhaps use Rubery Community Leisure Centre. This would be visited on 5th February 2021 to see whether it was suitable.
· Lickey End First School
It was acknowledged that both this Committee and the Council to try and move away from the use of school wherever possible. This school had asked if it could not be used and as an alternative Lickey End Social Club had been contacted and they were happy to offer their services. It had better parking access and access for social distancing.
· Members were reminded that, if elections had gone ahead in 2020, the School at Clent would ave been used. However, Clent Parish Hall Committee were now happy for the Hall to be used again.
· Millfield Social Club
The Social Club had raised concerns about Covid access and officers would be visiting the site on 3rd February to investigate further.
· Court Leet – this was currently closed, and Officers were having difficulties in contacted anyone to discuss its use.
The Electoral Services Manager confirmed that once the new venues had been assessed and deemed suitable the relevant Ward Members would be consulted.
The Chairman raised a point in respect of the area which fed into Court Leet, the Rock Hill area, for which he was County Councillor. It was felt that the Court Leet was a compromise solution and the use of a portable unit at another site might be more appropriate. It was suggested that the turnout at the polling station was traditionally quite low due to the distance outside of the boundary that some of the electorate would need to travel. Officers were asked to consider whether there was any land suitable to put a portable unit on in the estate in question. A number of areas were suggested, and the Electoral Services Manager agreed to investigate this matter further.
RESOLVED that the verbal update in respect of the Polling Station changes be noted.