The Labour Group on Dumfries and Galloway Council has warned that a programme of planned community centre closures could lead to significant changes over where local people vote.
In a report to full council today (29 August) councillors were asked to note that a statutory review of polling districts and polling places will be carried out.
However, Labour Councillor Colin Smyth highlighted the fact that as a result of the decision by the ruling Tory SNP coalition to vote to save £200,000 through the closure and transfer of community facilities, up to nine existing community halls and centres that are used as polling stations could close. The coalition is also considering a further cut of £200,000 next year, which will lead to other closures. The closures could take place around the time of the crucial independence referendum in 2014.
Councillor Colin Smyth said:
“One of the consequences of the decision by the Tory SNP coalition to close community centres and halls is that at least seven current polling stations may not be available for the next election and the independence referendum in 2014. With further cuts on the way in 2014 at the time of the European Parliament and Independence referendum, this number may increase and impact on those polls. This could lead to a lot of confusion amongst voters as they will have used these halls to vote on for many years. Turnout at elections is already low enough without putting barriers in people’s way. As part of the statutory review of polling stations for the next election I have asked that the council include looking at the possibility of using mobile polling places in communities where there is already a low turnout and where halls could close and to also look at a proper communication strategy that makes sure voters know well in advance if polling station could close. For example, in my own ward a lot of elderly people in the Millburn area vote at Noblehill Community Centre. If this closed, then they would have to travel a lot further and if this happens the council needs to make people aware of this and their right to vote by post”.