Posted by: westlancashirerecord | December 27, 2016

Pickles On The Local Authority Warpath

In a momentous announcement Sir Eric Pickles the Government’s anti-corruption tsar has proposed detailed changes to fight electoral fraud. It follows a hard-hitting report earlier this year, and it is understood that ministers are preparing to announce they will accept almost all of the measures to crack down on electoral fraud.

Pickles said “Electoral fraud and corruption is intertwined with other forms of crime as well. Local authorities have a large procurement role. A group of people who cheat their way to power are unlikely to hold a higher moral standard when handing out public contracts or when making quasi-judicial decisions on planning and licensing”.

As readers already know the WLBC made a quasi-legislative decision when it authorised some unknown, secretive, private landfill developments of the Beacon Park Golf Course facilities. Even now, after the landfill operation finally ceased, the WLBC is disputing its own clearly stated policy on landfill royalties, paid or not paid to the West Lancashire Leisure Trust.

And the local Conservative Party stood a candidate in West Lancashire who was and is already a sitting councillor in a borough seat at Wyre borough council, a councillor who when asked by West Lancashire Independent councillor Adrian Owens “Did you make the electors of Hesketh with Becconsall aware that you were a Wyre councillor when you stood for election in May and that you intended to continue to remain as one?” wrote in reply “This wasn’t a requirement of the election process”. But receiving two annual allowances IS his requirement and West Lancashire council tax payers paying one of them, the bigger one, IS a requirement. Might Pickles deplore that attitude? pickles1

Pickles mentioned a “higher moral standard”. Did the electorate of Hesketh-with-Becconsall deserve a stranger, or a candidate who whatever else knows West Lancashire inside out? Like him or not, Edward McCarthy is many things. A qualified teacher, works as a Communications and Development Coordinator in West Lancashire; for many years he has volunteered on holidays for children with diabetes; is also involved in local charities one supporting adults with additional needs to participate in sports activities, and the other gives office work experience to people with additional needs by providing an administration service for local voluntary sector organisations; supports various local organisations and groups; a regular church attender and maintains the website and Twitter account for his local church; the Tory Aughton Branch Secretary between 2011-2014; 2014-5 he was the West Lancs South Branch Chairman; in 2015 he became the Ormskirk branch Chairman; the Coordinator for West Lancs Conservative Future and also West Lancs Social Action.

McCarthy gained valuable election experience by standing in Scott ward mccarthyscott for the Borough Council elections in 2012 and Digmoor in the 2013 By–Election; was the Conservative Candidate for Skelmersdale West in the 2013 County Council elections; solved many residents’ issues and tackled many projects in these areas mccarthytidy; was the Conservative Candidate for Knowsley ward in 2014 and 2016 and Derby ward in 2015. Wasn’t HE local enough for a safe seat? Isn’t THAT local service, by any standards? Steady Eddy McCarthy or “dog poo” exponent Moon?

Under the Pickles proposals voters will be forced to show their passports or driving licences before casting their ballot under plans to be announced by the Government to curb election fraud. The tough new rules are also likely to include nationality checks to break the link between electoral and immigration fraud.

Postal vote changes will also mean voters have to hand in their own paper ballot if they miss the deadline, instead of allowing political activists to “harvest” and hand in large batches at a time. The Government is expected to announce a number of pilot schemes which require people to show ID before voting when the changes are announced in the New Year.

Amid the 50 recommendations Pickles will call for English and Welsh to be the only languages spoken at polling booths and for new guidance to stop photos and videos being taken in a bid to end intimidation and persuasion. The opportunity for fraud is increased when alternative languages are spoken in polling stations, Sir Eric warned, as he hinted that a desire to be politically correct could be making the situation worse.

“The languages spoken in polling stations (and other places such as the count) has recently become an issue with concerns that promoting the use of non-English languages could disguise coercion or influence within the polling station. “Such an approach undermines integration and leaves the door open to fraud. These are not ‘community languages’ – they are foreign languages,” he said.

He warned that “it is harder to take out a municipal library book than it is to vote in a polling station administered by the same council”, adding that it is no longer good enough that trust is the only test for voting in UK elections.

He concluded “There is no need to be over elaborate; measures should enhance public confidence and be proportional. A driving licence, passport or utility bills would not seem unreasonable to establish identity. The Government may wish to pilot different methods. But the present system is unsatisfactory; perfection must not get in the way of a practical solution”.

Voters in Northern Ireland must already show ID to vote and a voluntary elector ID card is available to those who do not have access to other forms of identification. Pickles said there had been little evidence that introducing the checks would reduce the number of people seeking to vote, adding that it may increase numbers as people realise they do not need a polling card and can instead present a driving license or similar.

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