Requirements for people to bring photo ID with them to vote in elections could result in residents being unable to cast a ballot, the council leader has warned.

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, warned that the “cynical move” would lead residents without identification unable to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming local elections in May.

He also said that these people are “considerably more likely to be from disadvantaged sections of society”.

In a letter to Cabinet Office minister and MP for Horsham Jeremy Quin, Cllr Mac Cafferty said: “Both the principle and the delivery of these plans will lead to voters being turned away from polling stations and could lead to long-term disenfranchisement with the voting system, particularly within already marginalised groups.

“It is essential the government acts now to avoid damage to the integrity of council elections.”

He also called on Mr Quin to compensate local councils for the activities required to make changes to allow for the new initiative.

Cllr Mac Cafferty said: “To make such significant changes to the way residents vote, it is essential that there is a local and well-funded awareness campaign, which of course requires funding, as well as long run-in periods.

“To date, there has been no indication that the Treasury will fund local councils for the cost for adequate resources to ensure as many residents as possible are enfranchised to vote.

“This will include funding projects including local publicity campaigns, training volunteers at our polling stations and running social media campaigns.

“I am increasingly concerned that polling booth staff and volunteers will be the ones who are made unsafe, paying with their safety for the lack of foresight from ministers.”

For the May local elections, registered voters will need to show a form of photo ID when voting in person, such as a passport, driving licence or national identity card.

Those without a suitable form of identification can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate free of charge.

A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said that the organisation’s focus is on ensuring both administrators and voters are ready for the introduction of voter ID in May.

She said: “We are working with local councils and civil society organisations to support those less likely to have an accepted form of ID, so that they are aware of the free ID and can apply in time.”