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JUNE DATE PROPOSED FOR JOINT LOCAL AND EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

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The cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government has decided to hold a consultation exercise on the proposal to delay l...
The cabinet of the Welsh Assembly Government has decided to hold a consultation exercise on the proposal to delay local elections due on 6 May 2004 until the date of the European Parliament elections, due five weeks later on 10 June.

Local government minister Sue Essex said: 'On balance, I believe that the convenience of the voter is of paramount importance and that it is more likely that a good turnout will take place for both sets of elections if they are held on the same day. Voters will find it hard to understand why two elections are held so close together if we had the power to hold them on the same day.

'The Local Government Act 2003 gives the assembly the power to bring this about but as a first step I will be consulting on this matter and I will welcome comments on the proposal, particularly in relation to the issue of electoral pilots.

'Last week the UK government introduced the European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Billwhich opens up the possibility for whole regions of the UK (of which Wales is one) to operate electoral pilot methods at combined elections.

'I will be putting the assembly government's view to the Electoral Commission - who will be advising the UK government - that Wales is very well placed to operate an all-postal election in combined elections next June.'

Welsh secretary Peter Hain added:

'This is something I have been advocating for some time. It will be welcomed I am sure by returning officers, the political parties and most importantly by voters. It is far more convenient for the public to have these elections on the same day and will I hope be an encouragement for more people to vote.

'I am also pressing the Electoral Commission very strongly to make Wales a pilot area to test all postal voting for parliamentary, council and community council elections. It was proven in my constituency in Neath and in other parts of Wales last time that when the public is en couraged to use postal voting, the response is very positive. Voter apathy is a threat to democracy and we must explore all ways to get the public more involved in the democratic process.'

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