UK: the worst score for electoral integrity in Western Europe

The UK scores worst in electoral integrity in Western Europe. Here’s why:

The UK performs poorly when it comes to issues of electoral integrity, lagging behind European neighbours but does particularly poorly when compared with Scandinavia – which as is the case in many fields outperforms Britain.

Here, Pippa Norris looks at the reasons why, pointing to voter registration procedures, electoral laws, media coverage, constituency boundaries, and the counting and results process:

Issues of electoral malpractice have received growing attention in the UK. The House of Commons Library briefing on Electoral offences since 2010 gives details of the reports published by the Electoral Commission and the Associations of Chief Police Officers on cases of alleged malpractice.

Questions have arisen over insecure postal ballots, proxy voting, and fraudulent practices. The Electoral Commission issued warnings of potential ‘ethnic kinship’ voting in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, a practice thought to make these areas particularly vulnerable to electoral fraud.

Sir Eric Pickles, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, has reviewed electoral fraud to make recommendations on what could be done to tackle the problem.Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, has claimed that electoral fraud is a ‘growing phenomena’ in British elections.

Polling Day in the UK General Election

The UK General Election on May 7th 2015 certainly generated several media reports of alleged malpractices and shortfalls.

On polling day, technical glitches were reported in Hackney and Dorset following problems with the electoral roll and distribution of cards for the incorrect polling station, blamed by officials on information technology and printing errors.

Bournemouth council apologized after 100 people were unable to cast their vote in the local elections because an administrative blunder had led to the wrong ballot papers being issued. Earlier 250,000 ballot papers went missing after a printer’s van was stolen in Eastbourne and Hastings.

The Electoral Commission investigated complaints that some overseas voters had not received their voting packs in time. The Guardian reported that Metropolitan police received 18 allegations of electoral fraud in the run up to polling day.

In Tower Hamlets, the High Court suspended the Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he was found guilty of falsifying postal votes and putting undue pressure on voters at polling stations during the 2014 local and European elections.
In Darlington, the BBC reported that the UKIP candidate’s name was missing on ballot papers.

Finally, the Telegraph reported that the Scottish Tory party leader tweeted claims of voter intimidation in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, with the allegations investigated by local police.

None of these were major issues, compared with problems common in many other countries, but they may still have undermined public confidence in the electoral process. When asked beforehand in the British Election Study, the majority of citizens expected that the election would be conducted fairly, but almost one fifth (18%) thought that it would be unfairly conducted. …”

Meet our elusive MP Hugo Swire – Sidmouth, Friday 22 April 2016, 9.15 am

Coffee morning, Woodlands Hotel Sidmouth 9.15 am
Sidmouth Business Club – though flyer says all welcome and no need to book
£5 entry

No doubt LOTS of people have LOTS of questions – but are they willing to pay £5 for a coffee to ask them?

But you never know when he will be back …

Hinkley C: the damning views of its own French engineers

EDF dissenters urge Hinkley nuclear delay Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Senior engineers at French utility EDF have called for at least a two year delay at the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear project in the UK and recommended a redesign of the reactor technology.
An internal white paper written by dissenting EDF engineers, which has been seen by the Financial Times, argues that Hinkley Point is so complex and untested that the company should announce a later completion date than the target of 2025.

The paper, circulated among top executives, said that the “realistic service date was 2027” due to the size of the project, continuing design modifications to the European Pressurised Reactor system and the “very low” competency of French supplier Areva in making some of the large components.
The white paper also made the case for a “new EPR”, calling on the company to redesign the current reactor technology to make it smaller, cheaper to build and less complicated.

A timely start-up at Hinkley Point, which will provide 7 per cent of UK electricity, is critical because the government has set 2025 as the date by which the last of Britain’s coal-fired power stations is due to close.
EDF said in a statement last night that it would stick to the planned timetable. “The date for the first operation of Hinkley Point C has not changed. It will be in 2025,” it said.

But experts say any slippage in that timetable was likely to mean having to pay companies to keep older plants running or even build more short-term, highly polluting diesel power.

EDF has been beset by internal tensions over Hinkley Point, with chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal resigning this month over concerns that the project could threaten the company’s future.

Critics have raised concerns over the £18bn cost, given EDF’s stretched balance sheet. Two other projects in France and Finland using the same EPR technology are both severely delayed and billions over budget.

The unsigned white paper was written after Mr Piquemal’s resignation by a group of senior engineers and other dissidents, according to people with knowledge of the document. The company plans to make the final investment decision on the project at a board meeting on May 11.

Doubts grow over hitting the zero-carbon target

According to existing plans, 2025 is to be a pivotal moment in the history of British energy. The problem is that while the closure of coal power plants is accelerating, the prospect of Hinkley Point opening by 2025 appears to be receding.

In the paper, the EDF engineers called for a joint “Franco-British project” to commission four to six “optimised EPRs” by the end of the decade that could be operational between 2028 and 2031.

One person with knowledge of the company likened the current EPR to the Concorde supersonic airliner, a technical marvel but a commercial failure. The new EPR would be “more like an Airbus”, the comparatively simple but successful passenger aircraft.

The paper also addresses wider fears that the Hinkley project will in any case not be completed by 2025 and might suffer years of construction delays.
One person on the EDF board who had read the white paper said: “Few believe that we can build this [Hinkley Point] by 2025 any more.”

Another person close to the group said that 2025 was set to remain the official target, but the final decision could incorporate a margin for error because even with a two-year delay the project would still be profitable.
Three people close to the company said that CGN, EDF’s Chinese partner for Hinkley, also feared possible delays, attempting to insert a clause so it would take on a lower financial risk if there were a large problem.
Nuclear options

Engineers believe 4-6 smaller, simpler power plants could become operational as early as 2028, only a year later than the backstop date for Hinkley. UK ministers should consider this option.

In the case of a £5bn cost overrun, despite EDF having a 66.5 per cent stake in the project, EDF would be liable for 80 per cent of the additional costs, according to a document sent by the EDF finance department to the board’s audit committee in January.

That figure could be subject to change as the final investment decision has not been made. EDF declined to comment on the number.

The Hinkley project is still likely to go ahead as planned. Three out of the four EDF unions with board seats are against the project in its current form, as well as at least one independent board member.

But the majority of the 18-strong board is likely to vote in favour of the deal in May, according to people close to the group. The company is 85 per cent state owned, and the government wants the project to go ahead.

“Police and Crime Panels must be better equipped to hold PCCs to account: MPs”

Police and Crime Panels must be better equipped to hold Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCS) to account, MPs have said.

In a report the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) noted that the panels were the only mechanism for accountability of PCCs outside of elections every four years. The MPs said the panels and PCCs should meet a minimum of once every two months.

The report, Police and Crime Commissioners: here to stay, also said that – in order to improve transparency and accountability – there should be a a central register of PCCs’ interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs.

The MPs added that:

Those Commissioners who will be elected in May must prioritise consolidating the work of their predecessors before considering further expansions of their role and powers.

It was “deeply concerning” that there had been so few applicants for recent Chief Constable vacancies. Many of these roles had been awarded to the incumbent Deputy Chief Constables, who often shared a close relationship with the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner.

PCCs should consolidate their profile in the communities they represent. Turnout at the next elections would be one measure of success in engagement.
Any expansion of the PCC role needed to be incremental and carefully judged. “The additional responsibilities for PCCs detailed in the Policing and Crime Bill in relation to fire and rescue, and in police complaints provide sufficient additional challenges for now, and PCCs should concentrate on the issues raised in this report, wider public engagement and their core role before broader expansion of their role is considered.”

Progress on the new Police Funding Formula must be brought forward, “as damaging delays are making it impossible for PCCs to fulfil their role of setting Force budgets. PCCs hands are tied by the stalled review which must be restarted urgently, with the establishment of the independent panel HASC called for in its December report.”

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the committee, said: “PCCs are here to stay. A series of measures would consolidate their role and effectiveness in local communities. This must begin with a central register of PCCs interests and a centrally maintained list of PCC office costs, so they can be better scrutinised by their electorate.

“We did not anticipate that the creation of PCCs would have such a dramatic effect on the appointment of Chief Constables. The pool of talent in policing is in danger of drying up, with so few applications for the most senior jobs in policing. PCCs must ensure applicants for Chief Constable roles have served at least two years in another Police Force at a senior rank, and not allow close working relationships with their Deputy Chief Constables to deter external applicants.”

Vaz added that newly elected office holders in May should not be burdened with too many additional responsibilities. “They are already due to be given more powers for Fire and Rescue Services and Police Complaints, and an even broader remit on top of this may prove overwhelming and these proposals should be paused.”

Sidford Fields industrial park: Councillor Hughes talks as if it is a shoo-in

… DCC highways boss, Councillor Stuart Hughes said: “Facilities for pedestrians at Sidford Cross are less than ideal and that is unlikely to be helped once further development takes place at the proposed business park.

“We will be able to assess the transport assessment of the business park planning application in detail once it has been submitted to see what the impact of the development will be on this junction.

“From the initial site meeting we’ve had, it appears that the only sensible solution would be for an all-red phase of lights, with some form of pedestrian crossing across the middle of the junction – but design work would be needed on all of the possible options, because it would clearly impact on how the junction operates.”

Allowing time for survey and design work to be carried out, the earliest any proposal could be considered would be at the council’s autumn meeting.

Cllr Hughes admitted the council has a limited budget but expressed hope developer contributions could be negotiated, or external funding sought.”

So, that’s that then – Sidford Fields sorted, even down to a possible developer contribution, and even before a planning application is in.