Agenda item

Agenda item

Elections Act 2022 and the 4 May 2023 Local Election - Progress Report on its Impacts

Report of the Chief Executive.


This report provides figures and a full update on how the new duties of the Elections Act 2022 impacted on the 4 May 2023 local election, with specific focus on voter registrations, polling station accessibility, voter ID requirements and the local Greater Manchester / Manchester communications campaign to raise awareness of these changes.



The committee considered a report of the Chief Executive which provided a full update on how the new duties of the Elections Act 2022 impacted on the local election on 4 May 2023.


Key points and themes within the report included:


  • Providing an introduction and background to the Elections Act 2022;
  • Figures on the number of applications for a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC) received by the Council;
  • The number of enquiries received by the Contact Centre before and on Polling Day;
  • 60, 742 electors voted in person at the election out of a total of 313,519 eligible;
  • 1,060 polling station electors were not initially issued with a ballot paper but later returned with accepted ID;
  • 589 polling station electors applied for but were not issued with a ballot paper by close of poll;
  • The Electoral Commission were collating data from all 230 councils who held elections in May to produce a report evaluating the full impact of the voter ID requirement and a report on the key findings of this would be provided to the Scrutiny Committee when it is published;
  • The reasonable equipment provisions that were in place at polling stations;
  • The impact of the communications campaign; and
  • The changes expected from July 2023 as a result of the second tranche of legislation through the Act.


Key points and queries that arose from the committee’s discussions included:


  • Thanking the Elections team and all staff who worked on polling stations and the count;
  • How many people in Manchester had been charged with voter fraud in the last 10 years;
  • The costs incurred by Manchester City Council as a result of involvement in Greater Manchester’s communications campaign;
  • Requesting further information on the gradual move to online postal voting applications as stipulated in the Elections Act 2022;
  • What ongoing communications there would be to encourage electors to apply for VACs; and
  • Noting that a new parliamentary boundary map was expected to be released imminently and querying whether discussions with neighbouring authorities regarding cross-boundary constituencies were underway.


In opening the item, the Chair stated that the introduction of voter ID was a wholly unnecessary, politically motivated scheme that had cost millions of pounds, but he congratulated council staff for their efficiency and consideration in dealing with VAC applications. He also paid tribute to the electorate who adhered to the change in requirements.


The City Solicitor also expressed her thanks to staff and acknowledged the challenges that the changes arising from the Elections Act 2022 posed. She stated that representatives from central government, the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA), a London authority and a Scottish authority observed Manchester on polling day, and all praised the work and good practice within polling stations, with some national organisations noting this work to share across the country. She noted further challenges arising within the coming year, including changes to postal and proxy vote applications which the Council was awaiting further guidance on. A polling district review would also be undertaken after new parliamentary boundaries came into effect in December 2023. The City Solicitor stated that further engagement would be undertaken with communities to enfranchise more electors. 


The Statutory Deputy Leader stated that the introduction of voter ID was an attempt to disenfranchise people, particularly the working class and young people. He stated that the national advertising campaign was poor and that there was little attempt to notify people of the changes. He expressed his belief that one voter turned away from a polling station was one voter too many. He paid tribute to the Elections team for their work in what he stated were difficult circumstances but called on the government to reverse the policy and build trust in politics to encourage more residents to exercise their democratic right.


In response to a member’s query regarding how many people in Manchester had been convicted of voter fraud in the last 10 years, the City Solicitor explained that she was not aware of any individuals who had been convicted of voter fraud within the last 10 years, but this would be confirmed to members following the meeting. She stated that the number of people convicted nationally was also very low.


The Head of Strategic Communications explained that there was a cross-Greater Manchester (GM) approach to communications which the Council supplemented with specific activity in Manchester to reach those most likely to be affected by changes imposed by the Act. He stated that the cost of the GM-wide campaign was £93k, to which Manchester City Council contributed £17k. Additional expenditure was also incurred by the Council, including banners for display outside of polling stations and 12 additional translations, to a total £50k. The Head of Strategic Communications explained that this additional expenditure was felt to be necessary and important given that the 2023 local election was the first since the changes had been introduced.


The Electoral Services Corporate Delivery Manager explained that the Council was awaiting further information from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), which was currently undertaking beta testing of the online postal vote application portal. Assurances were provided that paper application forms would still be available and further information would be provided once available.


In response to a query regarding what ongoing communications there would be to encourage electors to apply for VACs, the committee was advised that this would continue to be promoted through the annual canvass period. The Elections and Electoral Registration Policy Officer explained that an engagement campaign was being developed to run throughout the summer as part of consultations on the polling district review and the annual canvass. He stated that the Council was working with Macc and the Our Manchester VSCE Fund, universities, Age Friendly Manchester, Breakthrough UK to reach disabled groups, the Council’s Neighbourhoods service, homelessness services and the care and veterans’ sectors on this to reach a wide range of communities and groups. Members also requested that further information on this be shared with councillors to distribute at events.


The City Solicitor confirmed that there would be six different cross-boundary parliamentary constituencies as a result of the boundary review and acknowledged that this would add a complexity to parliamentary elections. The Electoral Services Corporate Delivery Manager explained that regular meetings with neighbouring authorities were held through Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). She stated that the new boundaries would only come into effect once a parliamentary election was called. A report on how the Council was preparing for these changes would be provided to the next meeting of the Constitutional and Nominations Committee.


The Chair of the Constitutional and Nominations Committee stated that only 10 people in the UK had been taken to court over suspected voted fraud in the last 5 years, none of which were in Manchester. On behalf of the Constitutional and Nominations Committee, he thanked staff who worked on the elections and stated that it would be difficult to fully understand the number of electors who were dissuaded from voting as a result of the requirement to present ID.




That the report be noted. 

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