Whilst anyone who knows me will know my general attitude to this is, ‘OK, let’s crack on with it’, it’s still worth recognising the hard work many of our election teams and returning officers are facing, and to recognise their amazing professionalism and ability to do just that – to ‘crack on’ in really challenging circumstances. It’s to their credit that I’ve no doubt we will we see a set of well run, fair and transparent elections rolled out across the country not once but twice this year.
But let’s not pretend it’s going to be easy. Solace members have already raised the issue of the unforeseen costs incurred through cancelled holidays for election staff who had been hoping to get away at this time; and of cancelled leave more generally. This will mean a great deal of extra resource, time and energy; diverting staff time that will already have been planned for.
Another concern is that in areas like mine where we will be asking the electorate to turn out to vote twice in only a short period of time, there is a real risk that it will undermine turnout and thus the democratic inclusion I believe is so vital for our communities, and that many of our teams have worked so hard to boost.
Managing the election process aside, as President of Solace, I will also be spending the coming weeks thinking about exactly what we ask of all the political parties standing in these elections. Brexit negotiations are of course important, and it is vital that we keep pushing for local government and the public sector to be high up in any Government’s priorities in this, but it is also vital that all political parties have a plan for the future of our public services more generally: for social care, for children, for housing and for good, inclusive local growth, to name but a few. I look forward to working with many of you to articulate our vision for the future and to work together to help ensure the incoming Government share this.
For now, I’ll leave you with some top tips from me to get you through this challenging time:
- Make sure you stay close to your teams, keep yourself appraised of how things are going, and do your best to keep them motivated – realise you may need to make yourself available to them much more than you would normally need to.
- Read, plan, project manage and communicate. Free up space to give yourself space to be an effective Returning Officer.
- Buddy up with another Returning Officer or similar colleague from another authority, particularly if they are facing similar challenges to you. Solace can help you find someone if you need.
- Take time to read all the guidance and related resources you can.
- Get yourself and your teams some Haribo, or any other sugar fest of your choice for the night in question. It will see you through. And get some wine in the fridge for the day after the count.
We can do this and do this well, because it's what we do!
If you need any further support at this time or wish you contribute your views or concerns, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.