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Royal Mail insists ‘no backlog’ to postal votes amid reported delays

02 Jul 2024 6 minute read
Royal Mail vans Image: Rui Vieira

Royal Mail has hit back at criticism from a UK Government minister over reports of delays to postal vote delivery, insisting there is “no backlog” ahead of the General Election.

Kevin Hollinrake was said to be “urgently” investigating a failure to get ballot packs to people in some constituencies in time for polling day on Thursday.

He suggested Royal Mail should have anticipated extra demand for postal votes during the summer holidays amid fears some could be left disenfranchised by the issues because they are already overseas.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the service said: “We have no backlog of postal votes and, whilst we are not complacent, we remain confident that postal votes handed to us on time will be delivered prior to polling day.

“Where specific concerns have been raised, we have investigated and confirmed ballot packs are being delivered as soon as they arrive in our network.

“We would welcome a review into the timetable for future elections with all stakeholders to ensure that the system for printing and administering postal votes before they are handed to Royal Mail works as smoothly as possible.”

Extra resources

Appearing on Tuesday’s morning broadcast round, health minister Maria Caulfield had said that Mr Hollinrake, the postal affairs minister, was “in direct contact” with Royal Mail over the problem.

“Kevin is investigating this urgently,” she said. “I know there’s extra resources going into this to try and do a sweep of all the sorting offices and make sure they’re out there.”

But sources in Royal Mail told the PA news agency later on Tuesday that Mr Hollinrake has not yet raised his concerns with the postal service to date, in apparent contrast to Ms Caulfield’s remarks.

It comes after Mr Hollinrake told the Telegraph that he did not think there was any issue at play “other than Royal Mail being competent and fulfilling their obligations under the USO (Universal Service Obligation)”.

“There’s a resourcing issue. They have recruited extra people and I welcome that but they’ve got to make sure they’ve got the right number of people to deliver the mail at busy times like this,” he told the paper.

“It’s not acceptable it’s sat in sorting offices. It needs to be delivered to people’s houses. So they need to put more people on to do that.”

It comes after Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney warned some Scots could be “disenfranchised” if their postal votes cannot be filled out and returned on time.

Some voters north of the border have reported still not having received their ballots, and many have now left for a holiday overseas.

The electoral watchdog has said it recognises the pressures on the postal voting system due to the holiday season and will look into its administration after this election.

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association called for a review of the already “overburdened” system put under extra pressure by an “unprecedented increase” in people voting by post.

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Rishi Sunak is not concerned that some people could be deprived of a vote as a result when asked by journalists.

“We’re working closely with the Electoral Commission, returning officers, Royal Mail and the print suppliers to support the resolution of these issues,” he said.

Mr Swinney rebuked the Prime Minister over the remarks, accusing him of attempting to “dismiss and ignore” the concerns of voters, which he claimed was a “democratic disgrace”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn also expressed concern over the issues.

Backlog

Answering media questions on a campaign visit in Nottinghamshire on Tuesday, Sir Keir said: “We must do everything we collectively can to ensure that those ballot papers get to people, that they can fill them in and have the vote to which they are entitled, so the country can move forward with the change that I hope will be delivered at this election.”

Mr Flynn, who says he has received numerous emails from voters who have not received their postal ballot in Scotland where school holidays have already begun, questioned Royal Mail’s denial of a backlog.

“I would probably argue some of the Royal Mail sentiments in relation to that because if there’s not a backlog, where’s the postal votes for my constituents, people that I’ve represented and hope to represent again, who don’t have access to the postal votes?” he said.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “Tens of thousands of postal votes were delivered over the weekend. We know local authorities and Royal Mail are working to get the final ones out as soon as possible.

The regulator said anyone who has not yet received their postal ballot pack should either request a replacement from their local authority, or if they have problems with posting it, to ask someone to hand it in on their behalf.

It added: “We recognise the pressures on the postal voting system due to the holiday season. We are continuing to provide advice and guidance to electoral services teams to support them with the postal voting process.

“Following the election, we will undertake research with voters and electoral administrators to understand their experiences at this poll. The administration of postal voting is one of the areas we will look at.”

According to the regulator, a voter can only apply for an emergency proxy if something unexpected prevents them from voting, such as a medical emergency, being away for work, or a lost or stolen voter ID.

Local councils are responsible for sending postal ballot forms to voters.

Completed postal votes must have reached councils by 10pm on polling day.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Councils and electoral staff across the country have been doing their utmost to ensure the smooth running of this election and that people can vote.”

They added: “We are aware of reports of incidents where delays have happened. The postal vote system could benefit from review and more could be done to support Royal Mail and printers to be ready to deliver elections.”


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
13 days ago

Following Tory controlled boundary changes and Tory controlled photo ID, here we have Tory controlled postal voter card delays. Stop the votes!

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