How the pandemic has made May's Calderdale Council election count different
The Calderdale Council elections taking place on May 6 should have been contested in May 2020 but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its impact is being felt in the way the counting of votes will take place at the usual venue, North Bridge Leisure Centre at Halifax.
In normal times, after voting the count is carried out throughout the morning and early afternoon of the next day, but with safety measures having to be put in place because of the ongoing pandemic, things are happening slightly differently this year.
Verifying and counting votes will take place over two days, while Calderdale’s portion of the votes in the inaugural election for a West Yorkshire Mayor will be counted on Sunday, May 9, and collated in Leeds, although regional results will be available.
The verification of all ballot boxes for the borough election, parish council by-elections and the West Yorkshire Mayoral election will take place on Friday, May 7, in two stages, a number of wards in the morning and a number in the afternoon.
Then on Saturday, May 8, the count for the borough elections and the parish wards will take place, again in two stages with a number of wards in the morning and a number of wards in the afternoon.
Counters will be socially-distanced – they will sit at their own tables with screens separating them from their colleague on either side, while glass screens will separate counters from any candidates or candidates’ agents who are observing.
Staff behind the screen will not be required to wear a face covering – however, if they move from their workstation they will be required to wear a face covering.
Media covering the count are limited in number and will be required to wear masks and socially distance.
Following the election, the council is set to host its annual meeting and Mayor-making ceremony on Wednesday, May 19.
Coun Chris Pillai (Con, Rastrick) will take over as Mayor of Calderdale from Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge), who has carried on doing the job through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is hoped the ceremony, at which Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) will take on the role as Deputy Mayor to Coun Pillai, will take place at a socially distanced meeting.
Coun Pillai’s wife Beverley is Mayoress-elect – the couple were Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayoress in Marcus Thompson’s year as civic head in 2018-19 – and Coun Blagbrough was Mayor of Calderdale in 2016-17.