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Answers to Parish Council Vacancy Questions

Posted on 24th February, 2013

Please find below helpful answers from North Somerset Electoral Services to questions regarding the Bleadon Parish Council Vacancy Notice dated 18th February 2013 and  18th March 2013. Please note that although the answers given here may also be applicable to other Parishes and elections, separate reference enquiries should be made to the appropriate organisation.

 

A candidate’s Consent to Nomination must be submitted prior to the close of the period for receipt of nominations i.e. before noon on Thursday 11 April in respect of the 9 May election. It must be signed in ink by the candidate and dated no later than the last day for receipt of nominations. It may be signed and dated up to one month in advance of that date. This allows an intending candidate to complete the document in advance of their nomination paper being prepared in order that it can be submitted to the Returning Officer in time. A Nomination Paper must be held invalid by the Returning Officer unless a valid Consent to Nomination has been received by the close of the period for receipt of nominations.

 

If a potential Nominee is abroad, one option is that the Consent to Nomination is emailed to the intending candidate. They could then print it off to complete, sign, date and return for submission prior to the close of the period for submission of nominations. I recommend the use of air mail or a courier service by the candidate to return the original signed Consent to either to the Proposer of their nomination paper for submission along with the nomination paper, or alternatively for that Consent to be sent directly to this office marked for my attention. If required, Consent to Nomination forms can be obtained from Electoral Services.

 

Options relating to a combined poll for all three vacant seats depend on a request for election in respect of the two recent vacancies being submitted to this office on or before Tuesday 2 April 2013. If this occurs the three possible scenarios are as described below.

 

If a further request for poll is not submitted by Tuesday 2 April but is submitted on or before Tuesday 9 April then a second separate poll would need to be held not later than 13 June. I estimate that such a further election is likely to cost the parish council a further £1500 to £2000 along with an additional £600 if poll cards are issued.

 

If no further request for poll is submitted by 9 April the matter would revert to the parish council for the two most recent vacant seats to be filled by co-option.

 

 


 

North Somerset Electoral Services have been notified of three casual vacancies arising from resignations :

 

(1) Trevor Marshall where a poll has been claimed and has been set for 9 May 2013;

 

(2) Brian Gamble and (3) Pete Trevitt are both subject of the second Notice of Vacancy which was published yesterday 18 March 2013.

 

The 14 day period during which a poll may be claimed in respect of the second and third vacancies ends on Tuesday 9 April 2013. However if a poll were claimed by ten electors on or before Tuesday 2 April 2013 it would be possible to combine the election for all three seats into a single poll with a significant reduction in the total costs to the parish.

 

Notice of Election for the 9 May 2013 election will be published on Wednesday 3 April 2013. For each intending candidate both a Nomination Paper (proposed and seconded by two electors) along with a Consent to Nomination (signed by the candidate) must be submitted to the Returning Officer at Electoral Services office by noon on Thursday 11 April 2013. I stress that a Nomination Paper would be held invalid by the Returning Officer unless a valid Consent to Nomination was received prior to the close of the period for receipt of nominations.

 

If there are more nominations than seats to be filled a poll will take place.

 

If there are less nominations than seats to be filled, those validly standing are elected unopposed and the Returning Officer would order a further election on a date that he selects within a period of 35 working days from the date of the original poll in order to fill any remaining seats.

 

If the number of nominations matches the seats to be filled, those validly standing are elected unopposed. This is distinct in law from “co-option” as each candidate is nominated to stand for election (and has not been opposed by other candidates), rather than having been selected (co-opted) by the majority of parish councillors at a parish council meeting.

 


 

The next full election to Bleadon Parish Council is due to be held in May 2015. This election could be combined with both the next General Election and North Somerset Council’s next full elections. The decision as to whether all three elections will be combined on one day is yet to be taken by central government. All seats on the parish council are subject to election in May 2015. All existing councillors at that date stand down and may stand for re-election (whether they were elected at the last full election in May 2011 or at any by-election prior to May 2015).

 

Where several elections are combined, shared items of expense e.g. polling station premises, polling and counting staff and equipment are split between the two or three elections involved. In such cases the Parish Council would be billed for either one third or half of such expenses as appropriate. In addition the Parish Council is billed for items that only relate to its own election e.g. the cost of parish ballot papers and posters.

 

It is difficult to be exact as to likely costs of an individual by-election in advance as this can depend on several factors including the number of candidates and whether polling cards are issued (a matter for the parish council to decide). It is estimated that a typical by-election in a parish the size of Bleadon is likely to cost between £1500 and £2000 excluding poll cards. Poll cards if issued are likely to cost approximately £600 .

 

With regard to the current vacancy, the law requires this is dealt with either, as provided in the Notice of Vacancy by a poll being requested , or if this does not occur by co-option by the parish council as soon as is practicable.

 

If an election is requested and there is only one valid nomination that candiate would be elected unopposed without the necessity for a poll to take place.

 

If an election is requested and no nominations are received the Returning Officer is required to hold further rounds of election until the vacancy is filled.

 

If an intending candidate has not submitted a consent to nomination prior to the close of the period for submission their nomination would be held invalid.

 

For a subseqent vacancy there is nothing to prevent any of the ten electors who claimed an earlier election signing a futher request for poll.

 

The detailed timetable of an election is very dependent on the date that any valid request for poll is received by the Returning Officer. In respect of the existing vacancy, if a poll is requested it would be held on or before 15 May, 2013 on a date to be set by the Returning Officer.

 

Hypothetically , if a valid request for poll was received by Electoral Services within the next few days then the poll could be set for a date between late March/early April and mid May. If the poll is not claimed until nearer the 8 March deadline given in the Notice of Vacancy it is likely that the poll would not take place until mid April at the soonest. Once a poll is requested the election timetable is calculated by counting back in time from the date set for the poll. The Notice of Election would be published by the Returning Officer approximately five weeks prior to polling day giving details of election day and the nomination and voting process.

 

The period for the receipt of nominations is approximately one week immediately following publication of the Notice of Election. If that Notice were published on a Tuesday the nominations could be submitted from the following day up to a legal receipt deadline of Noon on Wednesday of the following week.

 

Nomination papers would be available shortly after the date of an election is agreed. It is usual to provide these in hard copy form but Electoral Services could email the documents if requested provided they were printed prior to completion in hard copy. The nomination paper itself can be completed on behalf of an intending candidate e.g. it could be completed by their proposer and seconder and submitted on their behalf (there is no requirement for the candidate to complete any element of the nomination paper but it must be signed in ink by the proposer and seconder).

 

The one document that the candidate is required to complete at a parish council election is the “Candidate’s Consent to Nomination” which must be signed in ink and dated by the candidate and the date must be on or within one month before the last date for the delivery of nomination papers.

 

The legal requirement for a request for poll is that it is made in writing to the Returning Officer and signed by ten electors for the parish. It need not be a single document, and individuals or groups of electors could write and sign their own letter(s) to the Returning Officer which when all received at Electoral Services office total to ten electors. There is no proxy facility available for this purpose although a scanned image of a signed document emailed to Electoral Services would be acceptable. If Electoral Services can correctly identify the signatory(s) of such documents within the current Register of Electors they may add the electoral number(s) at their office. It is helpful if such letters can contain contact telephone numbers or / and email addresses for use in the event of a query .

 

The law relating to candidate’s nomination papers is specific and requires delivery to the Returning Officer of a hard copy document containing ink signatures. For this reason scanned images of nomination papers are not acceptable.

 

Until formally notified of the occurrence of any second vacancy, Electoral Services cannot give specific advice as to the timing of any resulting election. The timing of any election in respect of the first vacancy will be to an extent dependent on the date that any valid request for poll is received. There is limited opportunity to combine polls where two vacancies occur within a short time and both give rise to a valid claim of poll. Once the Returning Officer has set the date of election and Notice of Election has been given in respect of an initial election it would not be possible to combine that election with any subsequent poll. In such cases a further poll may be necessary and each may be separately recharged to the parish council.

 

There is currently one vacancy within Bleadon Parish Council arising from the resignation of Councillor Trevor Marshall. I attach a copy of the related Notice of Vacancy for your information. Electoral Services are informally advised that a further vacancy may occur soon but cannot confirm this until notified formally by the Parish Council.

 

As mentioned within the above Notice, an election may be claimed in respect of the existing vacancy if ten electors for the parish give notice to this office in writing by 8 March 2013 (otherwise the vacancy will be filled by co-option by the Parish Council). The law does not provide for such requests to be made by email as it is necessary for the claim of a poll to include each elector’s name, signature, address and electoral number. If you contact the Electoral Services office prior to completing such a claim for poll with the names and addresses of intending signatories Electoral Services can supply relevant current electoral numbers.

 

There is no prescribed wording or form for a claim of poll but I would suggest that it could take the form of a document including the following wording:

 

“We the undersigned being electors for the Parish of X do herby request that a poll he held to fill the vacancy existing within the X Parish Council following the resignation of Councillor Y”.

 

If an election is called in the case described above a poll will take place not later than 15 May, 2013 on a date to be set by the Returning Officer.

 

If a poll is successfully claimed and an election date is set by the Returning Officer, Electoral Services will prepare nomination forms and intending candidates may request these from this office. Once again the law requires that nomination papers are submitted in hard copy (and not by email). It is recommended that a candidate or their representative delivers these documents to Electoral Services office and if possible waits whilst they are checked.

 

You may download proxy voting (or postal voting) application forms from the Electoral Commission’s website: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk . You will need to print and complete these with an ink signature and can submit them either in hard copy to North Somerset Electoral Services office or as a scanned attachment to an email sent to: electoral.services@n-somerset.gov.uk

 

Mike Jones, Elections Specialist Practitioner, Corporate Services, North Somerset Council

Tel: 01934 634 903

Fax: 01934 888 812

Post: Town Hall, Walliscote Grove Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UJ

Web: www.n-somerset.gov.uk

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