Postal voting and ‘politically restricted’ jobs

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Perhaps one of the more reasonable measures introduced by the late Margaret Thatcher was identifying posts which are politically restricted under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

The concept of politically-restricted posts was only slightly modified by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

Under this legislation, certain posts are “politically restricted”, which means individuals who hold them are effectively prevented from having any active, political role either in or outside the workplace. This not only debars post holders from holding or standing for elected office but also prevents them from: participating in political activities; publicly expressing support for a political party or undertaking other activities, such as canvassing on behalf of a person who seeks to be a candidate; speaking to the public at large; or publishing any written or artistic work that could suggest they are advocating support for a political party.

These restrictions aim to prevent politics coming into play where an employee is in a politically influential position. This could be where an employee implements the authority’s policies, gives advice to or speaks on behalf of the authority.

The Conservative Party has nationally negotiated with the Electoral Commission a code of conduct for the handling of postal votes as has Labour. Both parties have refused to accept local codes of practice that exceed what has been decided nationally.

Party political campaigners are perfectly within the law to assist people to register to vote and also to complete postal vote applications and ensure they are not disenfranchised. Pendle’s Chief Executive carried out a consultation asking people if they thought postal vote fraud was prevalent and no one came forward with any material allegations. This consultation was reasonable work for the Chief Executive to undertake as part of his duties. It is also reasonable for him to report to the Electoral Commission about the consultation.

If the Chief Executive of Pendle Council openly continues to promote and publish a local protocol that supports the party political viewpoint that local party political campaigners should not assist people to complete postal vote applications, surely he is in breach of this legislation about politically restricted posts?

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