Government gets behind 18 new schemes with the aim of saving almost a third of the annual cost
The Cabinet Office is encouraging local authorities to make more use of digital technology in their annual canvassing for electoral registers.
It has announced the launch of 18 new pilot projects, adding to the existing three, to run across England and Wales with the aim of removing about £20 million from the annual cost of £65 million.
Details of how the pilots will work are being left to the councils’ electoral registration officers, but it provides scope for projects that reduce the reliance on postal forms, include the use of email and telephone, and use data to tailor the way individual properties are canvassed.
Pilots are already being run in Birmingham, Ryerdale and South Lakeland, and further projects are now on the cards for 18 more local authorities: Barrow, Bath and North East Somerset, Blaenau Gwent, Camden, Coventry, Derbyshire Dales, East Devon, Hounslow, Luton, Newcastle, Salford, South Holland, South Norfolk, South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse, Sunderland, Torfaen, Wakefield and Woking.
Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore (pictured) said: “Currently the annual canvass costs around £65 million to conduct every year - it is too high and we must take advantage of new and emerging technology to make the process more efficient where we can.
“We have already brought in huge changes to our electoral system with the introduction of individual electoral registration and now, through these pilots, we are continuing to update and improve the system to fully realise these benefits and potentially save the taxpayer an estimated £20 million every year.
“If we are going to achieve our vision of a democracy that works for everyone I am determined that our electoral system is one that efficiently supports a modern electorate.”
Currently the law sets out a programme of canvass forms and house visits, which demands repetition when the same people live in a property as the year before, and leaves little scope for local authorities to use their local knowledge and data.
The pilots are intended to give councils the flexibility to focus on the households where a change in occupancy is most likely to have taken place, and to increase registration levels by better targeting people who do not usually sign up to vote.