A bumper set of elections are to be held across Great Britain on ‘Super Thursday’, May 6, including a number of ballots postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Peterborough is also gearing up for three elections this year after the polls were called off last year; the city will be voting to elect city councillors as well as the new police and crime commissioner for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, and the Mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough on this day.
However, the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty on restrictions is prompting local authorities to call for them to be delayed once again. Staff and volunteers at PCC, like other organisations and sectors have worked hard throughout to support the city and its people.
Councillor Holdich said that staff are exhausted and the elections could add severe pressure to their workload, describing it as a potential 'nightmare’, if they go ahead as per schedule in May 2021, and suggests October to be a more appropriate time for the votes.
He says the logistics of arranging everything amidst the pandemic, the added burden on staff, rules for EU nationals, and processing postal votes and how they would fit in with the pandemic rules are all big factors to consider with very little time left.
The leader of the Conservatives party in Peterborough says there’s too much uncertainty to plan for them at this stage and it’s best to wait. He is aware of a consultation ongoing to push the event to early summer, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Councillor Holdich represents the Glinton and Castor ward just outside Peterborough. He was due to retire last year, but continued in his role as leader throughout the coronavirus pandemic. He said he has never worked harder than the past year.
Speaking to Peterborough Matters, Councillor Holdich said: “We have got various elections in Peterborough this year. But, our staff and executives are very tired. I have never worked so hard before. This year has been very challenging.
“If the elections go ahead on schedule, then we will need more staff as my staff are exhausted. It’s a lot of work and when you have so many elections, the count and everything that goes with it, it’s going to be very challenging amidst managing a pandemic.
“And we do not know if we will be out of restrictions completely by May, and what the situation might be? I think it will still be too soon and October would be a better time for it, that’s my view.
“By that time, we will have had a lot more people vaccinated. Things might have settled down a bit, the staff won't be so rushed off their feet and people might be more confident with the situation as well, so it makes sense to hold them off until the autumn.
“I know there are talks of potentially pushing it to June or July, but I think that’s still too early.
“It will be a nightmare logistically to manage it. The count, how we might do it? Postal votes - what's the situation with that? Rules for EU citizens, where do they stand with this and the pandemic rules? There's too much to think about with little guidance at this stage.”
Meanwhile, he paid tribute to all the PCC staff and volunteers and all the other organisations and charities in the city who have come forward to support the city in this crisis.
“I have nothing but praise for them’, Councillor Holdich said, adding: “A huge thank you to all of them who have been working so hard to ensure residents and businesses and vulnerable people are being supported. Whether it's food distribution or any other thing, the city has really come forward to look out for each other. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support.
“I also want to say PCC staff have been great in financially supporting business as well. We received the money from the government but they have been prompt in handing it out and making sure timely help is being given. So, I am incredibly proud of everyone. “In the first lockdown, Peterborough was quite low on the table in terms of cases for the most part, but this time, we are quite high up in the county.
“It could be for a number of reasons. But I think we have done quite well and the people in the city are obliging to the measures. There are a few who seem to be struggling with the rules, but it’s a minority. And I would urge residents to continue following the guidance and help stay safe.”