Covid marshals to maintain safety at Peterborough polling stations as postal vote numbers rise

Covid marshals will be placed outside polling stations in Peterborough to maintain the safety of residents voting in the local elections.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 5:00 am

Around 80 of the city’s 92 polling stations on May 6 will have a marshal outside - just one of a number of measures brought in by the city council following consultation with the relevant health authorities.

However, it appears many people are deciding to go ahead with postal voting this year with the council seeing a 43.6 per cent rise in applications.

A first batch of nearly 24,000 postal voting forms are being sent out on Friday with a second batch being dispatched eight days later once the deadline for postal vote applications expires on Tuesday at 5pm.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Polling station sign in Peterborough

But for those who want to vote in person, council chief executive and returning officer Gillian Beasley insisted they will be safe with strict measures being introduced, including a rigorous cleaning process after each person has cast their votes.

She said: “It will be a very rigorous, robust procedure and properly managed. But we are asking people to recognise it will be slower and they may have to queue.

“It will be safe to vote but it will take longer than normal.”

Elections are taking place next month for 23 out of 60 seats on the city council, as well to elect the next mayor and police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Mrs Beasley said: “Each polling station has had a Covid-safe risk assessment and each one has an individual set of operating procedures from health and safety and public health. We’ve had to bespoke all polling stations to make sure people can vote safely.

“When you arrive you’ll be met by a Covid marshal who will ask relevant public health questions. They will then guide you through the process of hand sanitising.”

The voter will be separated from the poll clerk by a screen and they will fill out their voting forms at a polling booth before putting them in a ballot box and sanitising their hands on the way out.

Some polling stations will have separate entrances and exits, while for others it will be a case of one-in, one out.

Surfaces will cleaned after each person votes.

Mrs Beasley said: “We are asking the public to be patient. These are all measures we’re required to put in by public health. The stations will be put up the day before and staff have been trained to run these in a safe and effective way.

“Anyone who comes to a polling station by 10pm will be able to vote.”

All staff will be required to take a lateral flow test, she added.

Rachel Edwards, council head of constitutional services, said: “We’re encouraging everyone to bring their own pen or pencil and face covering. We will have pencils and masks available. Our pencils will go into a box and be cleaned after they are used. People exempt from wearing face coverings will be allowed in one at a time.”

The count is being held at the East of England Arena and Events Centre where the number of counters will be 87 compared to the normal 400, while no members of the public will be allowed in.

Counting will begin on Friday morning with results from all 23 wards announced from around midday onwards.

The declaration of results for elected mayor is expected on Saturday at around 1pm and for police and crime commissioner at around 5pm.

Asked about the risk of electoral fraud from the higher numbers of postal votes, Mrs Beasley replied: “The rigour we apply with the police, which is nationally recognised, we are doing this year. We meet every week and all allegations are investigated.”