Individual electoral registration to pave way for online services

Electoral experts have warned the government to exercise care with the introduction of individual electoral registration to avoid compromising the electoral roll. Measures for the transition to Individual registration will be outlined in the Electoral Registration and Administration bill, announced in the Queen's speech.

The bill, introduced to parliament today, aims to speed up the introduction of individual registration to tackle fraud, improve the integrity of the register and make registration more convenient, the government said. It will open up the possibility of new online services.

According to briefing notes issued by the government, individual registration will be introduced from 2014 for new registrations and anyone wanting to vote by post or proxy and for all voters from 1 December 2015.

The bill will provide for the use of data matching to verify applications and existing entries during the transition to individual registration.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission, said: "We have been calling since 2003 for our voting system to be strengthened, so I am delighted that legislation to introduce individual electoral registration has been included in the Queen¹s speech. It is right that every elector should be checked and verified before their name is included in the register."

However she warned that individual registration myst be introduced in a way that puts the needs of voters first. "It will also need careful planning and implementation to ensure it maximises the accuracy and completeness of the electoral registers."

In other measures relevant to local authorities, the Queen¹s speech announced a draft local audit bill "setting out new measures to close the Audit Commission and establish new
arrangements for the audit of local public bodies."

This will ­ belatedly ­ require local bodies to appoint their own auditors on the advice of an independent auditor panel and transfer the Audit Commission¹s data matching powers "to another body (which department this will be is yet to be confirmed)." The bill applies to England only.

Meanwhile a children and families bill promises the biggest reform in 30 years in support for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities. It will require local authorities and health services to jointly plan and commission services needed by children and families, and give parents or young people the right to a personal budget for their support.

Personal budgets will also feature in a draft Care and Support bill to modernize adult care in England, the government said.