I am pleased to publish the Government’s evaluation of the pilots conducted in 2017 in England, Scotland and Wales testing alternative approaches to the current annual canvass for the electoral register. These pilots were conducted under section 9 of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013. The Electoral Commission has today published its own evaluation of the pilot findings.
The Government brought forward legislation to conduct these pilots to test alternative approaches to the canvass as the current process is expensive, administratively complex to run and confusing for citizens to navigate. The alternative approaches were initially proposed by the electoral community, with four models being refined and taken forward for piloting. These models were a Household Notification Letter (HNL) model, a telephone canvassing model, an email model and a model that introduced a data discernment step at the start of the process. We tested these four models over 24 different local authorities in 2017, following a smaller sample of piloting the previous year. I would like to thank all the Local Authorities and their staff who participated.
The pilots and evaluation show that there are viable ways of improving the canvass to achieve a reduction in cost and administrative burden without compromising the volume and quality of data that is currently collected through this process. In particular, the pilots have shown that we can use data to help better target resources to those properties with a change in household composition. The pilots have also shown the ability to deploy more modern communication methods to engage citizens in the annual canvass. It is time the canvass process is brought into the 21st century. Doing so will build on other reforms to modernise electoral registration, such as the introduction of online registration, which have helped ensure the electoral register used for the 2017 General Election was the largest ever.
The Government now intends to consult in the coming months on reforms to the annual canvass based on the pilot findings. We believe a hybrid model, incorporating the most successful elements of each of the models piloted will be the most beneficial in achieving the aims of reform. We intend to publish a policy statement later this year setting out the plans and asking for feedback from all interested parties.
The pilots show the benefits of engaging closely with stakeholders, who are best placed to shape a system that works for everyone. We are indebted to the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Scottish Assessors Association for their collaboration to date and look forward to this continuing throughout the development and implementation of these reforms.
Our intention is for reforms to be introduced across Great Britain. As elements of electoral registration are devolved in Scotland and Wales, reforms will need to be introduced jointly. We are therefore working closely with the Devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales. The publication of the evidence from the pilots is an important milestone that will help underpin this collaboration.
I am placing a copy of the evaluation report in the Libraries of both Houses.