Minutes: Wales Electoral Coordination Board 30 May 2018

Minutes: Wales Electoral Coordination Board 30 May 2018

Date: Wednesday 30 May 2018 

Who was at the meeting

Meeting administration

CE thanked Frank Cuthbert for his work over many years in different roles and wished him well for the future.

The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted as a correct record.

RT explained that all actions were on track. The survey on the first year of WECB’s operation would be circulated during the summer. The issue of Returning Officers (ROs) formally appointing deputies had been raised with the Commission’s guidance team who intend to amend the guidance.

Returning Officer and Electoral Services Manager support

Returning Officer mentoring scheme

MJ said that a number of new Chief Executives had been appointed across Wales who would act as RO. The new ROs and their mentors
were:

  • Eifion Evans, Ceredigion CC - Steve Philips
  • Christina Harrhy, Caerphilly - Darren Mepham
  • Judith Greenhalgh, Denbighshire - Iwan Davies
  • Michelle Morris, Blaenau Gwent - Will Godfrey

There would also be a new appointment in Wrexham shortly and CE had offered to act as mentor in this case.

Upon becoming aware of a new RO appointment, MJ explained that he would contact the new appointee to welcome them and ask them about their experience of elections in previous roles. He would then contact an experienced RO who he thought would be a good mentor. CU then prepared a welcome letter, arranged for it to be signed by MJ, and sent this with the briefing pack to the new RO.

The scheme was going very well so far. MJ said mentors were able to discuss any training that the new RO might require such as AEA courses,or bespoke training that could be arranged if an RO was appointed shortly before an election.

CU added that she and RT would be arranging an introductory meeting with each new RO in the coming months.

Extension of the Returning Officer scheme to Electoral Services Managers (ESMs)

RT said that this had been discussed at the previous Wales Electoral Practitioners Working Group (WEPWG) meeting and agreed that it would be beneficial to allow the RO scheme to “bed-in” during 2018, look at the lessons learnt and decide on the benefits of launching an ESM scheme (in conjunction with WEPWG) sometime in early 2019.

Capacity self-assessment model

CE said that the capacity self-assessment had been completed by Flintshire County Council and had been circulated to WECB members. It was a voluntary exercise but should be recommended to others. It was long but not a complex document to complete. RT suggested producing a clean and blank template with guidance to encourage ROs to use the resource. This might highlight some common issues that AEA training could address.

Action: Electoral Commission to draft template and guidance for capacity and succession self-assessment and circulate to WECB members

Updates

Electoral Commission update

CU explained that the first Wales Advisory Board meeting had been held on 15 March bringing together AMs from each party represented at the National Assembly for Wales. The Board was chaired by Elan Closs Stephens and the first meeting was attended by the Llywydd, Elin Jones AM representing the Assembly Commission along with Gareth Bennett AM, Jane Bryant AM, Janet Finch Saunders AM and Simon Thomas AM.

Issues discussed included the Commission’s future accountability arrangements to the Assembly, the work of the WECB, including the new
RO mentoring scheme and electoral reform. Sir John Holmes, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, spoke about the work of the Commission at a UK-wide level and provided updates from the Board.

CU thanked BM for representing the WECB at the meeting and talking about the work of the Board. The next meeting was scheduled for October and CU requested that someone from WECB attend and provide feedback.

Action: Electoral Commission to invite a representative from WECB to attend the next Wales Advisory Board meeting in October.

CU said that the Commission’s Modernising Electoral Registration projectwas established to explore the ways in which we could improve and modernise the electoral registration system in the UK. This would include identifying and costing the technical, organisational and resource requirements necessary to deliver a number those changes identified that were necessary to improve the electoral registration system.

A feasibility consultant had been appointed who would be looking to speak to stakeholders about five feasibility studies:

  • detection and prevention of duplicate applications
  • better use of public data to identify new electors or potential
  • changes to the register
  • integrating applications into other public services
  • automatic registration using trusted data sources.
  • polling day registration

CE said that this could be useful in Wales as ESMs might need to use UK wide data sets if some of the proposed Welsh electoral reforms were implemented.

AD asked for more information on what would be costed as part of the project.

Action: Electoral Commission to circulate additional information on the costing to be undertaken by the Modernising Electoral Registration project RT said that the Commission had held its first seminar in February. The next seminar would be held at the Eisteddfod and involve Commissioner Elan Closs Stephens, the Llywydd Elin Jones AM and young people. The seminar would discuss the proposed changes to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. The third seminar would be held in the autumn in north Wales and would consist of a panel of Assembly Members talking about democracy and women’s representation in politics during the centenary year of women’s suffrage.

ECS added that the proposed electoral reforms included gender balance, quotas and job sharing all of which would be discussed.

Action: Electoral Commission to provide details of seminars to WECB members so that they could promote the events

Welsh Language Legislation Advisory Group

BM said that the glossary of electoral terms was being launched that day. She thanked the Electoral Commission for providing the resource to develop the glossary in a timely manner. It would be a helpful and useful tool, particularly in authorities where Welsh was not so widely spoken. It would give them confidence that they were using the correct terminology.

The glossary would be sent to local authorities, Welsh Government translators, National Assembly translators and political parties. It would provide a public benefit in reducing the need for duplication of work. BM thanked Rhydian Thomas and Sioned Wyn at the Commission and asked that the Board provide formal recommendation for Maire N. Ualghairg who had worked on the glossary.

Action: WECB to provide formal recognition for Maire N. Ualghairg

RT thanked BM for chairing the group and said that her input was appreciated. There would be an electronic memory to accompany the
glossary which could then be used automatically in translation software.

This would be updated when necessary.

CE said that resource needed to be regarded by everyone as the definitive glossary. Maintenance could often be overlooked and the glossary should be reviewed at six monthly intervals after this year.

Action: WLLAG to undertake six monthly reviews of the electoral terms glossary

BM said that WLLAG would now turn their focus to voter facing forms. Cabinet Office had agreed to look at some forms. RT added that there had been good interaction with Cabinet Office so far.

MJ said that the glossary would be most helpful. There had been disagreements in the past as to what the wording should be and the legislation is often wrong. Cabinet Office needed to use this resource.

Update from AEA Wales

RG said that there had been an AEA Wales branch meeting on 14 May attended by the new Chief Executive Peter Stanyon and the new Deputy Laura Lock. There was a commitment to work with the devolved nations as the electoral reform process moved forward. They were aware of the complexity and work needed. AEA were not proposing to publish a report on the local elections in England in May, but would instead write to the Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith, restating outstanding recommendations from previous reports and exposing issues with the voter ID pilots.

The Minister had indicated that canvass reform would be scheduled for 2020 to allow sufficient time for upskilling, updating election management software and developing data sharing. The 2020 canvass could be significant in Wales as it would be the last canvass before the 2021 elections. UK Government had indicated that they would talk with Welsh Government in June to discuss the potential reforms.

There were no specific issues with the introduction of GDPR. The Electoral Commission produced guidance which was very helpful and provided the basis for the work undertaken. At the last branch meeting it was expressed that additional training on this was desired but that there is none available.

CE said that it would be good to share some good practice examples and suggested that the privacy notice should be consistent across Wales.

Action: WECB to circulate additional information about GDPR guidance and training

CU added that the Commission would be collecting experiences and sharing examples in Bulletin in the next few months.

CE congratulated RG on his appointment at Cardiff County Council. RG confirmed that he was continuing in his role as Chair of AEA Wales.

Local Government Electoral Reform

Update on consultation responses

ATR said that the consultation on structural reform would close the following week. The electoral reform responses had been published and were informing Welsh Government proposals along with discussions at the Electoral Reform Program Board and workshops. These would be used to take forward legislative proposals and drafts would be shared when ready.

CE asked whether there would be an analysis of the responses. ATR said that the analysis was in the response that had been published. For example, there was significant opposition to the proposal that individual principal councils should be able to choose their voting system.

As this was a political issue officials would take direction from the Cabinet Secretary on this. There would be a further announcement by the Cabinet Secretary before the summer recess.

ATR said that there would be legislation allowing local authorities to run pilots but that these would be voluntary.

CE asked if more clarity could be provided on the timing of reforms, but ATR was unable to give any further clarity. CE expressed concern that the timescale might become unfeasible with a delay in making changes in good time for the elections. The timelines were complex and the new Green Paper on strengthening local government was a complicating factor that could delay the Bill.

Update from Electoral Reform Programme Board

CE asked how the work of this Board was feeding into the electoral reform agenda.

ATR said that it is being used as an expert group to inform electoral reform. They would not be publishing a report but there would be a record of the meetings.

Update on engagement workshops with ROs/ESMs and other partners

RT said that one workshop had already been held and that three more were scheduled. He asked whether there was specific engagement with ROs.

ATR said that they were looking for a separate opportunity to engage with ROs. They wanted practitioners at the workshops.

CE said that ROs were ultimately accountable and at present had no opportunity to input.

Action: Welsh Government to consider an opportunity for Returning Officers to provide feedback to Welsh Government on electoral reform, with Electoral Commission’s assistance 

Green paper consultation document – Strengthening Local Government: Delivering for People

CE said that ROs had been working on the assumption that the next local elections in Wales would be in 2022.

CU said that the timing in the Green Paper was different to what was included in the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement at the start of the year which said local elections would be every five years. The Electoral Commission would be responding to the consultation on the option to hold the next local elections in June 2021.

CE said that spaced out elections were preferable to avoid confusion for voters, particularly if there were to be changes to the franchise or voting system.

Action: Electoral Commission to circulate Green Paper response to WECB members.

Creating a Parliament for Wales

AD explained that the consultation had closed at the beginning of April and received a good response with over 3,000 responses to the questions asked. The Assembly Commission had held a number of consultation events with stakeholders. They were currently pulling together advice and policy options for the Llywydd.

The Llywydd’s priority was the franchise, including votes at 16, extending the right to vote to all legal residents in Wales and prisoner voting.

Political consensus was required for any changes to the structure of the Assembly and they were conscious of the tighter timescales. They were highly dependent on Welsh Government’s work on voter registration.

Overall there had been very positive support for changing the franchise and for Assembly elections and local elections to have the same
franchise. The Llywydd would publish its recommendations in July.

RT requested an embargoed copy of the Bill.

Action: AD to request an embargoed copy of the Bill for WECB

Action: Invite Llywydd to a future meeting

Any other business

CA said that the lawyers drafting the legislation had expressed interest in seeing how an election was run and asked to be informed of any upcoming by-elections.

MJ said a by-election was likely in Carmarthenshire in July.

Last updated: 27 August 2020
Next review: 25 November 2020