Future of Electoral Office left in doubt

Carla Lockhart
Carla Lockhart

Local politicians have reacted angrily to news that the future of the town’s Electoral Office has been thrown into doubt, with fears of a possible closure by 2017.

MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, who wrote to the Secretary of State and contacted the Chief Electoral Officer over her concerns, described the news as ‘a bitter blow’ for the town.

The Banbridge office currently has four full-time staff and nine part-time employees who are all based in Bridge Street.

Mrs Dobson said: “We have had an electoral office situated in the town for many decades.

“Last December, following an announcement of 15% cuts to their budget I spoke personally to the Chief Electoral Officer and wrote to the Secretary of State to express my extreme disappointment at the total absence of engagement with local elected representatives before the decision was announced.

“This announcement from Westminster effectively made the closure of the Banbridge office inevitable.”

She went onto say, “Whilst I welcome moves towards online registration, I am concerned that budget cuts in the nature of 15% will have an impact on the efforts to increase the number of people on the electoral register.”

DUP Councillor and Upper Bann Assembly candidate Carla Lockhart said she will be fighting for the Electoral Office to remain open.

She said recent weeks had once again confirmed the need to have a local Electoral Offices throughout Northern Ireland.

“In the run up to this Assembly election we have appreciated the local touch when dealing with registrations, IDs, and postal votes,” she said.

“I just do not understand the reason for total centralisation and I would say that this should be reconsidered. I do recognise the need for registration and applications for postal votes being made online and I know that plans are underway in this regard however we still have a large section of the community who cannot utilise technology.

“I have requested a further meeting with the Chief Electoral officer to discuss this matter and will be highlighting my major concerns in this regard.”

The Electoral Office was unable to respond at the time of going to press.