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I beg to move amendment 21, in schedule 5, page 27, line 21, at end insert—
‘(6) The Government shall report to Parliament annually within two months of the end of the financial year on what money had been made available to local authorities to meet costs of transition to the new register and what safeguards have been put in place to make sure the money has been spent on the specified task.’.
I will refer specifically to the amendment and then more generally to schedule 5. On the financing of individual electoral registration, our concern is whether sufficient finance is being provided. The explanatory notes that accompany the Bill indicate that:
“A total of £108m was allocated at the Spending Review in 2010…This includes £85m resource funding in 2014/15 to fund registration officers to make contact with each potential elector individually” who hopes to be on the register.
The petitioners of individual electoral registration and those who work in the field have concerns. I cite in particular the comments of the chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, Mr John Turner. I know there has been discussion between the Government and the association, which I welcome. However, Mr Turner made the following important point in his written evidence to the Select Committee:
“It is our view that the successful implementation of the new system will depend on the relevant funding going directly”—
I emphasise the word “directly”—
“to electoral services.”
This is critical. He continues:
“Any funding needs to continue post 2015 and should not simply be seen as one-off capital funding.”
Our concern is essentially in line with his comments. We are worried, for example, that there will be insufficient resources to provide electoral registration officers with the necessary new guidance and training, particularly in respect of data management. We recognise that it will be necessary to enhance the skills and knowledge base of officers, and we are concerned that money is not provided for that. In other words, a comprehensive training re-vamp is needed, along with a comprehensive skills analysis, in order to inform the appropriate provision of training and support for electoral administrators.
In addition, there is also the fear, as I said, that the money allocated by the Government will not eventually get through to where it is needed. We have tabled this amendment because, ideally, we would like these resources to be ring-fenced, so that the whole transition period and the implementation of a new system is properly financed with money that is guaranteed. The only way that electoral registration officers can plan effectively and do what is necessary is if they know exactly how much money is coming through.