5th May a big day for voters, but why are schools closed?

19 April 2011

The 5th May 2011 is a big day for voting and depending on where you live, you may have up to 3 votes to make.

You will have a vote on the referendum on the voting system, a vote for your ward and possibly a vote for your Parish.

Voting often takes place from schools, requiring that the school is closed as it is for safety reasons it is not possible to manage both school children and general public in the same building.

Harrogate Borough Council is about embark on a review of polling stations. This is something they are required to do every four years, along with a review of the wards although this will be after the May vote.

Peter Jordan, Head of Legal and Democratic Services at Harrogate Borough Council explained further:

“The fact is that community groups can’t be obliged to offer their premises as Polling Stations whereas schools, maintainable at public expense are required to offer us a facility and can only charge heating, lighting and care-taking expenses.

This makes them a cheaper option but even in these financially difficult times we are alive to the ‘community cost’ in closing schools.

Our long established policy is to avoid using schools where a suitable alternative is available.

We have managed to move away, for example, from all secondary schools in Harrogate and Knaresborough because we’re very sensitive to potential disruption at examination time and alternatives have been found”

Having a school closure does create child-care issues for parents and carers and Peter Jordan commented: “Some schools plan one of their allotted teacher training days to coincide with election day and so the schools would be closed on that day (or another one) anyway and obviously that’s an approach that we favour.

There are other facilities (at the bottom of Hookstone Chase is probably the best example) where a very nice Community Centre and associated car parking are just too small to cope with the number of electors involved and so we use the adjacent school who plan in the manner described.”

Harrogate Council have stressed they are very mindful of the issues a school closure makes and are always looking for feedback from electors on their experiences at polling stations and suggestions for possible new polling station venues. They would welcome comments to Peter.jordan@harrogate.gov.uk


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