THREAT TO RURAL DEMOCRACY?

Hundreds of rural voters could have been prevented from voting if plans to cut back on country polling stations had gone ahead, according to Liberal Democrat Peer and former North Cornwall MP, Lord Tyler.

The proposals, which were revealed in a leak to the Local Government Chronicle, would have seen the Treasury declare elections ‘too expensive’ as they scaled back on polling stations in rural areas.

The secret Ministry of Justice plan would also have involved closing polling stations at 9pm, before many voters return home from work, and abolishing ‘polling cards’, which invite people to vote.

The plans were officially abandoned today following exchanges in the House of Lords. Lord Tyler demanded that the proposals should be declared “dead and buried”. Responding for the Government, Lord Bach told the House, “Had Ministers seen the proposals, officials would have been informed that many of them were simply unacceptable. They will not be developed any further.”

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler said:

“We can breathe a sigh of relief that Labour Ministers have seen sense but there will be very real concern in rural areas that democracy could be the first for the chop in any future cutbacks.

“I was disappointed, however, not to have some support in the chamber from Conservative Peers. I hope this does not mean that rural democracy could be threatened by a future Tory government.

“How far would these plans have developed had it not been for a timely leak to the press?”

ENDS

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