The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars* because voters are generally satisfied with the service they receive. The council has also put into place a number of initiatives aimed at increasing voter turn-out.
Roy Irwin, regional director, London Region Inspection Service, said: 'The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames provides a good electoral service which aims to increase voter turn-out and gives high priority to the needs of voters with disabilities. However the council needs to explore alternative voting methods that users have indicated they would like to see put in place.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
- there is a significant amount of outreach work undertaken to raise the profile of the electoral process including contacting young people, targeting hard to reach groups and effective internal partnership working
- the council is in the top quartile for percentage turn-out at local elections.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
- one polling station which is unsuitable for people with a disability continues to be used
- public notice-boards are not seen by voters as effective as they might be
- the council did not agree to a proposal to implement a pilot scheme which would have piloted alternative methods of voting although voters had clearly indicated that this was their preference,
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
- the council should seek another venue for the unsuitable polling station that is still being used.
- consideration should be given to the provision of alternative methods of voting in response to user concerns
- develop closer working links with the press and public relations department to ensure more effective publicity for the service.
The electoral service is based in the chief executive's department and is provided by three staff which is supplemented by temporary staff at election times. The service has a statutory responsibility for the conduct of elections and the preparation of the Register of Electors.