Recent government announcements and limited guidance stating the Local Elections should proceed in May however potential candidates, political parties and Independents are not permitted to circulate leaflets, newsletters and communications unless you can afford for someone to post it for you through your letter box and with a second class stamp costing 65p and approximately 45,000 homes in Cannock Chase one newsletter would cost about £29,250 even just one County Council Division like Hednesford and Rawnsley of about 12,500 homes would cost about £8,125 and my own ward of Hednesford South would cost about £1,625 for the 2,500 homes.

We, like all Independents and small parties, rely on our own time as well as that of our supporters to keep communicating you the community about the community and the activities of Councillors, activists and potential candidates. Large parties have deep pockets but we believe democracy shouldn't be auctioned to the highest bidder and elections should be determined by who the local community believes will best represent them.

Below is the letter we sent to Chloe Smith MP, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office

Chloe Smith MP

Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution

Cabinet Office

70 Whitehall London

SW1A 2AS

 

Monday 8 February 2021

 

Dear Chloe Smith MP,

 

Re: Your recent letter to the Parliamentary Parties Panel

 

We have had sight of your letter and write to add our voice to those expressing extreme concern about the action of the Government to circumvent the democratic rights of parties and individuals to campaign ahead of the local elections.

 

Please can you urgently clarify the legal advice which supports your letter which cannot understand it to be guidance, a statement of government intent, yet to be fulfilled in law; or the position in law.

 

It is disappointing that this approach of issuing our information not backed by any lawful regulation is used by the Government once again to address any situation that its own narrow political agenda would find to advantage of the will of the people and the established democratic processes.

 

Too often democracy in this country is prejudiced towards those with money and financial backing and away from those individuals and small groups wishing to engage and support their neighbours in the greatest tradition of democratic representation by participatory democracy.

 

As the Government of the day the Conservative Party has a responsibility to promote fair and equitable access to democracy at all levels and not promote an agenda which facilitates a control mentality of top down implementation by wanting to “control” local government through party ideological domination. This is a responsibility that this Government has singularly and spectacularly failed in on many occasions and none more so than this ban on campaigning.

 

We see no legal basis that states that it is not permissible under the current Covid legislation for volunteers to deliver literature to residents, so long as they do so taking sensible public health precautions.

 

Your position that it is fine for literature to be delivered through paid companies, rather than volunteers is an elitist decision to exclude anyone without the financial means to use paid services. Whilst as a Government Minister you may have forgot the cost of a pint of milk the cost of sending through postal services is an order of magnitude beyond this and would cost many thousands of pounds for a single distribution never mind running a campaign which puts it beyond any individual engaged in local government or wishing to serve their community on a local basis and reflects just how out of touch the government remains.

 

We understand that you have not produced any public health evidence, equality impact assessment, legal view and have not sought the views of other parties, the Local Government Association, the National Association of Local Councils, Returning Officers or the electoral commission in making your pronouncement. This is beyond irresponsible and nothing more than a blatant attempt to promote your own political outcomes at the expense of local democracy.

 

We call upon the Government to urgently review it’s advice to restrict the distribution of democratic information and delay the local elections by no more than 3 months to allow sufficient time for everyone with an interest in their local communities to make their case to the electorate following the lifting of lockdown, whenever that happens, and any resulting restrictions from the tiered nature of coronavirus response

Kind regards

For and on behalf of Chase Community Independents Group

Leader - Cllr Paul Woodhead

Chair - Cllr Paul Dadge