HOLDING local elections in May would be "irresponsible," the leader of Crawley Borough Council has said.

Labour's Peter Lamb supported a call from Conservative Duncan Crow for the council to write to the government and ask for another postponement.

Like hundreds of councils across the country, Crawley was due to go to the polls last year but, because of the pandemic, the elections were put back.

One year on and the West Sussex County Council and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner elections are also due to be held – but no definitive word has been given as to whether this will actually happen. 

Mr Lamb said he felt that it would only be safe for people to vote by post – and that the decision to do things that way should have been taken in the autumn.

He added: “As things stand, there is no way for any candidate to run for election without breaking lockdown rules to get the signatures they need to get on the ballot. 

“There could be no campaigning, meaning voters don’t get to question their candidates, and new councillors won’t have had the chance to find out what really matters to the people of their area. 

“Worse, it will be mathematically impossible to ensure everyone who wants to vote is able to cast their ballot.”

READ MORE: Poll predicts Labour could lose Crawley council

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm, with the early morning and evening usually seeing the most activity as people go to and from work.

Advice from the Electoral Commission lays out strict Covid guidance when it comes to the running of the stations and calls for regular cleaning of the equipment.

During a meeting of the governance committee, Mr Lamb predicted that turnout would take a massive hit this year, even in historically high areas such as Mr Crow’s Furnace Green, and there would not be enough time to get everyone through. 

To make things worse, the meeting was told that a number of council staff did not want to be involved this year and there was a shortfall of experienced presiding officers.

Some 350 roles need to be filled to fully man the stations and a ‘substantial’ amount of personal protective equipment has to be provided to keep everyone safe.

An audit of the polling stations has been carried out and there will now only be 23 rather than the usual 27, with schools – along with Broadfield Scout Hut, Grattons Bowls Club and Creasys Drive Adventure Playground – taken off the list and voting moved to community centres.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lamb said: “The reality is, if we have an election in May, it will be impossible for everyone who wants to cast a vote to cast it safely while following the rules set by public health experts.”

He added: “Solace, who represent council chief executives – typically the returning officers for their area – are making it clear to the government that if they go ahead it is going to be a disaster.”

Crawley has been particularly badly hammered during the pandemic, and councillors have put aside their political differences to help guide the town through the crisis.

While this has been a breath of fresh air when compared to some other councils in West Sussex, it won’t continue, with both groups keen to take majority control. 

Whether that majority goes to Labour or the Conservatives, only time will tell.