Latest Public Sector News

20.04.15

Council to consider giving employees time off to vote

A council is considering giving staff time off to vote as it looks for ways to improve election turnout way below the national average.

For Derby City Council, which elects a third of its councillors every year, the average turnout was 39.2% in 2011 and 34% in 2014. But, in wards such as Mackworth and Sinfin it was a little over 26%.

That compares with a national figure of 42% in 2011 and 35.7% in 2014.

Now the council is looking at ways to address the issue and is considering a report that makes suggestions to increase turnout.

One recommendation is to encourage employers to consider giving employees time off to vote, and leading by example so the council make the move first.

The report points to New Zealand and Canada, which both have laws requiring employers to give their employees time off to vote. It says this “has arguably enabled more people to take part in elections”.

Cllr Lisa Eldret, who chairs Corporate Scrutiny and Governance Board that will consider the report, told the BBC: "Voting is one of the most important things we do.

"We have a crisis at the moment in terms of people participating in the democratic process - for many reasons.

"One of things we can do is look at how we support and facilitate people getting access their democratic right."

Other recommendations made in the report include lowering the voting age to 16, engaging with young people early in the democratic process and making better use of social media.

It also suggest the council look at ways to make voting easier and more convenient, such as making more use of postal ballots. Another move that is thought will make a difference is changing from an election cycle of by thirds to all-out for yearly elections.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Seán Holden   20/04/2015 at 12:24

So taxpayers who have to vote in their own time may have to pay public employees to take time off work to do it? No wonder council bureaucracies are seen as out of touch and self serving. The falling turnouts have nothing to do with public employees being too busy until 10 o'clock at night to get out to the polls. Most people think most of them are off pretty sharpish at 5pm. Why give them time off to go to the polls? Just give them one of those council documents which can solve the problem at a stroke - an application for a postal vote. A wider solution might be to have elections on weekends or, as in the 19th Century, over several days.

Realist   20/04/2015 at 17:10

I'm a Council employee and I use a Postal Vote to avoid having to panic to get to my (not very accessible) polling station. There's no reason to give staff time off for this!

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