Belfast Telegraph

NIO move 'risks Electoral Office neutrality'

By Michael McHugh

The impartiality of electoral officers in Northern Ireland could be threatened if responsibility for running votes shifts from central to local government, a trade unionist has claimed.

The NIO has responsibility for the Electoral Office, which is gearing up for the Assembly election and the European referendum later this summer.

Ulster Unionist peer Sir Reg Empey claimed the Government could devolve power over the public body to help save a relatively small amount of money while threatening its independence.

Other sources suggested it was far too early to raise such a concern.

But Nipsa trade union official Dooley Harte said: "Councillors sit on local councils, they are the board for the council, they work closely with the chief executives. I am not suggesting that there would be deliberate pressure or influence placed, but there is the potential for that impartiality to be lost if electoral functions move to councils. I don't want to overstate that, but it is certainly a concern."

The union is balloting its members over industrial action over plans to close six regional electoral offices.

Sir Reg said running elections cost around £2m to £2.7m a year, a relatively small sum compared to the NIO budget.

Belfast Telegraph


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