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PM delays May 7 elections for one year over coronavirus

The Electoral Commission and the Labour Party had called on Boris Johnson to take action in delaying the votes.

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Local, mayoral and police and crime commission elections have been postponed until May 2021 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Local, mayoral and police and crime commission elections have been postponed until May 2021 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Local, mayoral and police and crime commission elections have been postponed until May 2021 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Boris Johnson has postponed the May 7 elections for one year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government said on Friday that the Prime Minister has delayed the local, mayoral and police and crime commission elections until May 2021.

Mr Johnson made the decision over concerns that voters would be heading to polling stations during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Both the Electoral Commission and the Labour Party had called on the PM to take action in delaying the votes.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We will bring forward legislation to postpone local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections until May next year.

“We will also work with the devolved administrations to ensure that they have the necessary powers to do the same.”

Ministers had appeared to be pushing on with plans to hold the vote after the Electoral Commission polling watchdog recommended the delay.

Chief executive Bob Posner called for a delay until the autumn, in a letter to the Government which was later backed by Labour.

Mr Posner highlighted “real risks” over voter turnout and safety, as well as candidates’ ability to campaign.

The PM’s move is the most significant delay to polling since then-prime minister Tony Blair suspended the local and general elections in 2001 over the foot and mouth outbreak.

Votes were due to be held in about 118 councils across England, while Londoners were to choose their mayor and police and crime commissioners were due to be selected in 40 areas across England and Wales.

The Association of Electoral Administrators, which represents election chiefs, had warned there may not be enough staff to keep all polling stations open due to sickness or self-isolation.

It is the right decision to delay local elections but it is not clear why the Government has decided to delay for a year rather than until autumn, as the Electoral Commission advisedLiberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey

The decision was welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA) which had also flagged concerns about the impact of the outbreak.

“The LGA has been raising a number of issues with government, including the possible impact of coronavirus on local elections. The swift decision is very helpful,” said LGA chairman James Jamieson.

“Councils will now continue to put all of their efforts into supporting their local communities as the nation tackles Covid-19.”

Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey questioned the length of the extension.

“It is the right decision to delay local elections but it is not clear why the Government has decided to delay for a year rather than until autumn, as the Electoral Commission advised,” the MP said.

The Local Government Information Unit said the PM “clearly” made the right decision, but the think-tank raised a series of concerns.

Ministers must answer what will happen in areas where councillors were due to stand down, as well as in vacant seats and by-elections, chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said.

PA