Canvassers enlisted to knock on district’s doors


- Credit: Archant

The chief executive of East Devon District Council (EDDC) has welcomed a parliamentary watchdog’s ‘clarification’ on the need for house-to-house visits by electoral canvassers.

Mark Williams said the value of the method had not been clear before, given that a previous system which utilised doorstep visits had been considered ‘not fit for purpose’ by the Government.

This comes after a report by the Political and Constitution Reform Select Committee published last week suggested that electoral officials who have a negative impact on voter registration in their region face ‘enforcement action’.

Mr Williams was invited to give evidence to the panel of MPs on the challenges faced by EDDC in terms of registering people to vote. He appeared before the committee last month in his capacity as the district’s electoral registration officer (ERO).

During the hearing, one MP accused Mr Williams of ‘repeatedly and brazenly’ breaking the law by not sending out canvassers.

Mr Williams, who denied the claim, was asked to explain why East Devon is one of 22 authorities that had not carried out its legal duty to visit homes where nobody is registered to vote.

He defended his more cost effective methods - saying he had achieved a registration rate 10 per cent higher than the national average without the need for canvassers.

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Mr Williams told the hearing that he had developed a system which yielded ‘the same, if not better’ results than making house-to-house visits.

EDDC has now recruited 22 canvassers who will be knocking on doors throughout the district in the run up to the General Election in May 2015.

He said last Friday: “We are canvassing now, as part of the new individual electoral registration process, and we will continue to do it into next year.”

The committee’s report also suggests that additional government funding be made available for local authorities to cover the cost of the extra work involved.

Mr Williams welcomed the recommendation that extra cash be provided, adding: “We have been adapting to serve government funding cuts, which have impacted on our capacity.

“If the Government also commits to extra funding, then this can be protected for the future.”