As soon as a General Election is set out it impacts communities across our nation that have little to gain from the Election and yet are now expected to cope with the way in which such matters are interpreted. The following examples which describe a few of the local impacts and the weird timing all help to explain why a predicted date and reliable point in time is so vital to our nation. At one minute past 8am on Monday morning Eventbrite sent a reminder to my company and at least 150 other companies that their meeting on Wednesday Morning that was due to start at 8am implying it was important and that we must not forget about it. It is a meeting with two local authorities that want to improve their procurement opportunities within the construction industry. Then at a minute before 1pm another email arrived from Eventbrite cancelling the meeting without any explanation. This was followed almost an hour later by an email from the organiser apologising and explaining that the meeting was cancelled because of the purdah in political world. This meeting will have cost money to arrange and a late cancellation will have an impact on both the organisers who will need to pay for the services that have been cancelled at such short notice and the businesses that planned to attend will now need to reorganise their day and it may take several months to organise a replacement meeting which again will cost more money.
One wonders how many other cancellations and new arrangements at short notice are taking place? As a company that supplies equipment to local authorities for elections we have now been asked to attend new meetings at short notice to organise matters for the local authorities.
Another email arrived at 4am this morning which explained that “You recently signed the petitions: …… Because of the General Election, the closing date for the petitions you signed has changed. All petitions now have to close at 00:01am on 6 November. This is because Parliament will be dissolved, which means all parliamentary business – including petitions – will come to an end until after the election. This means the petitions site will be closed and people will not be able to start or sign petitions. We’re sorry we weren’t able to give you more notice that this would happen.”
Of course the weird aspect of this is that had Guy Fawkes been successful, the closure of Parliament would have taken place at the end of 5th November!
A more important matter is that at the end of last week a report was published regarding the failures of the children’s services at Stoke City Council and following on from its publication the Department for Education told Stoke Council that by 31 January 2020 it must have an agreed formal partnership arrangement with a strong local authority to deliver all of its children’s social care services functions. “If a formal partnership cannot be brokered, alternative delivery arrangements will need to be sought” Of course for any local authority to be able to strike a deal with another local authority within three months is not easy, to do so when there is a Christmas and New Year in that period makes it much less likely but to now add to that a five week purdah period and one wonders if there is any prospect?
It seems clear that an unplanned General Election has the potential to give a range of parts of our society challenges. Perhaps the idea of holding a predictable five year period General Election begins to make sense, especially as it would take place in May every fifth year at the same time as local elections. Clearly holding General Elections every 18 months makes no sense at all.