[To review the progress made in respect of the actions and recommendations arising from the scrutiny review in 2016.]
Martyn Sargeant, Head of Democratic Services, introduced the report and gave the panel an update on recommendations and actions arising from the electoral registration and participation scrutiny review. The review report was considered by the Cabinet at its meeting on 8 June 2016.
The Head of Democratic Services advised the Board of the following progress since the report was submitted
Recommendations 1: The Council is working with colleges and school leavers to engage with young people in schools. The Council is planning a rolling programme of events during the next two weeks to support this aim.
Recommendation 14: Express Systems have been commissioned to develop voter information material and videos for residents whose first language is not English or who have reading or writing difficulties. The material will be available in a number of different languages. The scheme will initially be piloted in Blakenhall area in May 2016.
The Board suggested that information about the project could be published on Wolverhampton Information Network website. The Board discussed progress made to implement the recommendations and requested more detailed report be presented to a future meeting.
The Board discussed the planned feedback to the Electoral Commission on the lessons learnt from work done to target different groups and communities. The Board requested that a report of the Council’s response to Electoral Commission should be presented to the meeting on 14 March 2017.
The Board expressed concern about the difficulties in appointing an Electoral Services Manager and the potential risks to the Council of not having an experienced person in post. The Board discussed the reasons for not being able to appoint. The Head of Democratic Services explained that a number of ideas had been tried to fill the vacancy, without success. However, there is provision for extra dedicated support to be brought in where needed, in addition to developing the skills of current staff. The Board commented on the potential risks to the Council with the upcoming mayoral elections and the need for the vacancy to be filled as a matter of urgency.
Kevin O'Keefe, Director of Governance, acknowledged the difficulties highlighted by the Board and the need to find a suitable candidate. The Director of Governance commented that a possible option could be to contact the Association of Electoral Administrators, whose members are retired elections managers, with the necessary experience that could provide an interim solution. The Head of Democratic Services added that the Managing Director has supported the use of extra employee resources from across the Council and training for deputy returning officers to ensure the service is robust. The Board requested a more detailed report on progress against the review recommendations and also the opportunity to comment on the draft public engagement strategy.
The Board discussed the methods that will be used to consult with the public in the future and what further changes are needed. The Director of Governance commented that a new post has been created in the communications team to support the development of an effective engagement strategy. Furthermore, the learning from the public consultation work done as part of the library transformation proposals will support this development. The Director of Governance would welcome the contributions from the Board in this work.
1. The Head of Democratic Services to present a briefing report on the Council’s feedback to the Electoral Commission on its engagement work at the meeting on 14 March 2017.
2. The Head of Democratic Services to present a draft of the public engagement strategy for discussion at scheduled meeting on 4 July 2017.