I read with interest Sir Eric Pickles’ report and recommendations on electoral fraud in the UK.
Peterborough is one of 18 local authority areas listed in the report to be most at risk of allegations of electoral fraud. These areas are where Sir Eric suggests a pilot scheme model could be introduced to help further deter such fraud.
Electoral fraud remains an important issue and I want to outline where we currently are in Peterborough and the number of positive measures that have been in place for some time to effectively deal with electoral fraud in our area.
We have a team working hard to make sure this happens and they have introduced, alongside Cambridgeshire Police, a range of measures in recent years.
These have included a full check of all postal votes by trained staff for evidence of fraudulent activity; briefing all election candidates and agents on the correct procedures to follow during election periods and emphasising the zero tolerance approach to electoral fraud in the city; placing CCTV cameras at a number of polling stations and in areas where large scale delivery of voter registration forms takes place; and having a sustained programme of communication and social media messaging in the run up to election dates.
We also have a dedicated election fraud hotline for residents to report any suspected illegal activity, and city council and police officers undertake visits to properties to ensure that voters are resident at those addresses and to confirm they have submitted applications to register to vote or for a postal or proxy vote.
Our communities are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to ensuring that residents can vote freely in elections without fear or intimidation.
In my role as returning officer I have a good relationship with all our communities which allows me to have honest conversations with them about the issues of electoral fraud and the individual right to vote. They share my concerns and they work with me to get the message out to their communities.
The electorate must have complete confidence in the integrity of the system and our operation around election dates seeks to ensure that’s the case. To counter electoral fraud it requires commitment, hard work and effort, as well as a comprehensive set of measures and the support of your community.
People in Peterborough can rest assured that any corrupt practices will be treated very seriously and action will be taken if any offences come to light. Indeed, the Electoral Commission has previously commended our work to deter electoral malpractice.
The scheme outlined in Sir Eric’s report touches on some important issues. As a local authority, we are supportive of the pilot scheme and therefore look forward to taking part in the proposed changes for elections in 2018.
Gillian Beasley, chief executive, Peterborough City Council, and returning officer for Peterborough