News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Door to door campaigning for May local elections to go ahead after all

Government announces relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on election canvassing from next Monday 8 March in step with planned lockdown rule changes.

Local elections   Exeter city council   Devon county council   Police & crime commissioner   Coronavirus pandemic  

The government has announced that restrictions on door to door campaigning in the run-up to the local elections on 6 May will be relaxed from next week, in step with its planned changes to lockdown rules. The new regulations only apply in England: the devolved administrations are setting out separate plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

From next Monday 8 March, the same day as schools and colleges reopen and outdoor recreation or exercise with one other person becomes allowed, outdoor election campaigning will also be permitted.

Doorstep canvassing and leafleting must take place on a one-to-one basis and COVID-19 restrictions must be respected. These include maintaining a two metre social distance, wearing face coverings and sanitising hands between visits to different households. Campaigners must not enter people’s homes and should only access shared hallways in blocks of flats where “absolutely necessary”.

Then from 29 March, the same day as the “rule of six” is expected to return, election canvassing will be permitted to follow the same pattern, so groups of up to six campaign activists from different households can work together outdoors.

As there will be no change to the rules on meeting others indoors, doorstep campaigning activity must continue to take place on a one-to-one basis. The new guidance also stipulates that campaigners should not collect postal ballots from electors for submission and should not transport electors to or from polling stations in private vehicles.

Independent councillor Jemima Moore campaigning in Newtown during the 2019 Exeter local elections Independent councillor Jemima Moore campaigning in Newtown during the 2019 Exeter local elections

The new rules will allow nearly two months of outdoor campaigning in the run up to the 6 May polls. They replace a ban on election leafleting and doorstep campaigning that was expected to favour the two major parties. Smaller parties and independent candidates often rely on hand-delivering leaflets and doorstep canvassing and cannot match the resources that are routinely spent by the major parties on posting leaflets or social media advertising.

Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith said: “Democracy should not be cancelled because of COVID. Voters appreciate being well-informed and campaigning is an important part of effective elections. I urge political campaigners to continue to show social responsibility and for parties, agents and candidates to ensure that their campaigners understand the rules.”

Tom Hewat, election agent for Exeter Green Party, said: “We welcome the fact that we will once again be able to engage in our most successful campaign methods: delivering leaflets and talking to people on the doorstep. The safety of residents and our volunteers has always been of the utmost priority and, as ever, we will carefully follow the guidelines.

“As a grassroots political movement, reliant on dedicated volunteers and without the funds available to the two main parties to pay for postal deliveries, the green light for outdoor campaigning is particularly welcome.”

Michael Mitchell, chair of Exeter Liberal Democrats and city councillor for Duryard & St James, said: “Whilst welcoming any relaxation in COVID-19 regulations that is driven by medical data we remain concerned about the extent to which party volunteers and the public will be willing to engage in campaigning during the next few weeks.

“As a local party we believe that the May elections should have been delayed until September. In the autumn more people will have received either their first or second vaccination and hopefully the medical data would have allowed normal campaigning to take place.”

Exeter polling station

Exeter electors will be voting for city and county councillors and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner on 6 May. As the city council and police and crime commissioner elections should have been held last year but were delayed due to the pandemic, they will now take place at the same time as the scheduled county council elections. There is also a by-election taking place in Mincinglake and Whipton.

There will be attempts to make polling stations safe. People who wish to vote in person will be encouraged to bring their own pencils or pens to mark ballot papers, masks must be worn, hand sanitiser will be available and screens and distance markings will be used.

A significant increase from the nearly one in five votes that are usually cast by post in local elections is expected. The deadline for postal voting applications is 5pm on Tuesday 20 April, although anyone who wants to vote by post is encouraged to apply as early as possible. There are also new proxy voting measures for people who need to self-isolate because of coronavirus which will allow access to an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on election day.

Exeter City Council is administering all the elections that are taking place in the city on 6 May. Election notices including nominated candidates will be published on the city council website.

You must be on the electoral register in order to vote. You can register to vote online as well as check and update your details. The location of Exeter polling stations can be found by postcode search.


 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

 


Recent stories
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street


Help power our public interest journalism

More News
Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Annual event promoting public awareness of male violence against women and girls in public spaces coincides with international human rights campaigns.

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

Three year monitoring study confirms introduction of protected spaces has resulted in greater numbers of wildfowl using internationally important Dawlish Warren and Exmouth sites.

All News
More Democracy & Governance
Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board

An Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board has found that it is a de facto decision-making and governance body which exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.

Exeter city centre from Exeter Cathedral roof

Freedom of Information requests reveal Liveable Exeter Place Board "chumocracy" overseeing the city

Despite the significance of Liveable Exeter Place Board's role in determining the city's future, its members are selected and appointed on a secretive, informal basis.

Exeter City Council 2021 election results ballot share percentage by ward

Did Exeter's local elections results tell a Labour success story?

Exeter Labour lost just one seat in the city council elections and held all seven of its county hall seats, but on closer inspection its performance was more mixed than these headline results imply.

All Democracy & Governance
Analysis
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street

Previously rejected vision will now form basis of "abysmal" and "poorly thought through" Liveable Exeter development of 383 "units of accommodation" with increased proportion of substandard studios but reduced economic value to city.

Exeter City Council climate credentials claim in St Sidwells Point development hoarding

Greens call for evidence-based Exeter carbon budget as city council clings to net zero rhetoric

The Net Zero Exeter plan lacks baseline emissions figures, recognised scope definitions and measurement and reporting frameworks, placing the city's decarbonisation agenda at risk. The opportunity for Exeter to demonstrate genuine climate crisis leadership nevertheless remains.

All Analysis
Comment
Cargo bike carrying kids in Exeter

If you think electric vehicles are the answer, you're asking the wrong question

Mike Walton of Exeter Cycling Campaign says we shouldn't be seduced by the motoring lobby into believing that electric cars can create the future we and our children need.

Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

All Comment
Transport & Mobility
Cargo bike carrying kids in Exeter

If you think electric vehicles are the answer, you're asking the wrong question

Mike Walton of Exeter Cycling Campaign says we shouldn't be seduced by the motoring lobby into believing that electric cars can create the future we and our children need.

RMT campaign sticker on Exeter bus shelter

Stagecoach strike to take place following failed pay negotiations

Transport union RMT says Stagecoach pay offer is unsatisfactory and demands better conditions as staff shortages threaten services.

Peninsula Transport vision document cover image

30 year plan for SW transport outlined in consultation document

Strategic vision places investment in roads ahead of decarbonisation despite acknowledging the region's high car dependency rate.

All Transport & Mobility
Planning & Place
Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street

Previously rejected vision will now form basis of "abysmal" and "poorly thought through" Liveable Exeter development of 383 "units of accommodation" with increased proportion of substandard studios but reduced economic value to city.

Independent local business on Paris Street, Exeter

Prospects improve for pop-up Paris Street and Sidwell Street tenants wanting to stay on development site

Council leader Phil Bialyk says it will be "some years" before planned CityPoint redevelopment affects repurposed retail units, and that council "would want" to accommodate artistic and cultural initiatives and independent local businesses "should they wish to remain".

Clifton Hill sports centre

Council plans to scrap affordable housing requirement for Clifton Hill sports centre site redevelopment

Council-owned and financed developer cites unpublished report which values council-owned land for student housing despite council decision ruling out this use.

All Planning & Place
Arts & Culture
Positive Light Projects - Sidwell Street entrance

Positive Light Projects opens community arts centre despite CityPoint redevelopment threat

Parts of Exeter city centre are experiencing an unplanned renaissance as small shops and cultural venues move in to fill empty units on Paris Street and Sidwell Street, but uncertainty remains as the council still plans to demolish and redevelop.

Exeter Princesshay Debenhams closing down sale

Top floor of former Debenhams store to be converted into cinema

Princesshay owner's proposals for change of use to four screen cinema and cafe/bar have been under discussion since November 2019.

Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

All Arts & Culture
Climate & Environment
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

Three year monitoring study confirms introduction of protected spaces has resulted in greater numbers of wildfowl using internationally important Dawlish Warren and Exmouth sites.

Exeter Extinction Rebellion activists fly flag outside COP26 Exeter event at Maketank with COP26 Exeter photography project in window

COP-EXE event showcases local responses to global climate crisis

Exeter city centre venues last week hosted exhibitions promoting local action to mitigate the climate crisis in tandem with the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

All Climate & Environment
Community & Society
Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Annual event promoting public awareness of male violence against women and girls in public spaces coincides with international human rights campaigns.

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

A community-run event at St Thomas' Church combined artisan traders with music, storytelling and craft workshops to create a family-friendly festival atmosphere.

All Community & Society
Economy & Enterprise
Job Centre Plus entrance

Exeter workers to be among hardest hit by £20 cut in universal credit

Analysis shows proportion of benefit claimants in Exeter in work is among highest in country.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Illustration showing how the new building will look when completed

Exeter Science Park STEMM "grow-out building" construction begins

A new specialist centre for fast-growth Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths & Medicine businesses will be completed by November 2021.

All Economy & Enterprise