POLITICS
13/04/2018 13:38 BST | Updated 13/04/2018 16:55 BST

Integrity Of Democratic Process Under Threat Due To Overworked Election Staff, Labour Warns

Staff in London worked 26,000 hours overtime during the 2017 election.

Stefan Rousseau - PA Images via Getty Images
 Theresa May and her husband Philip leave after casting their votes in the General Election at a polling station in the village of Sonning, Berkshire

The revelation that election staff in London worked 26,000 hours overtime during the 2017 snap general election prove there is an “impending crisis” in Britain’s democratic process, Labour has warned.

Statistics collected by the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) showed on average permanently-employed staff members worked 155 hours overtime during the three month period.

Theresa May’s decision to call an election for June 8 meant local authority election staff had to work on a general election at the same time as the local elections on May 4.

John Turner, the AEA chief executive, used his report on the running of the election to warn “urgent action” was required by ministers to prevent “further fracture and fail” in the system.

Voters are due to go to the polls again in under a month for local elections across England, including in London.

PA Archive/PA Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after casting his vote in the General Election at a polling station in Pakeman school in Islington, north London.

Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow voter engagement minister, said it was “vital” that local authorities had the resources they needed to deliver elections effectively. 

“However, Tory funding cuts and the government’s rushed move to Individual Electoral Registration have pushed election teams to breaking point,” she said.

“We urge this government to resolve this impending crisis before completely undermining the integrity of our electoral process.”

In the wake of the election, the AEA wrote to election staff to express concern for their health and well-being and offered to arrange free of charge access to a confidential counselling service.

The report warned that a number of long-serving election staff had quit their jobs, taking with them “vital skills and experience”.

Cat Smith
Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow voter engagement minister, has warned election staff are under too much strain.

Asked to give the ASA anonymous feedback on their experience of the election, several staff from around the country told of the heavy workload. 

“The amount of time, effort and sacrifices that myself and my team have had to make over the recent elections has been unbelievable,” one said.

Another said “core staff” were “absolutely exhausted and put their work life before their family life”.

While another staff member said: “On the whole as electoral officers, we do this job, because we love this job, but the stress and pressure and expectation that is placed on our shoulder during this time period was extraordinary.”