Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A huge step forward on second home voting

Cornwall Council yesterday made a huge decision which will clamp down on second home voting in future elections - although it went through without a debate and with little notice.

The decision was based on my suggestion to the Electoral Review Panel and means that all applications to join the electoral register from properties registered as second homes will be subject to additional checks known as a 'Type B Review'. This will involve ensuring that second homes are not used for purely recreational purposes.

This is an issue about which I, and North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, have been campaigning for a number of years. By making it harder for second home owners to register to vote, we will be upholding the law that limits voting rights to people who actually live in an area.

Around one in twenty households across Cornwall is a second home and owners receive a council tax discount. With that number of properties, there are potentially tens of thousands of people who could be added to the register despite having little connection with the local area.

Cornwall Council's first step was to ask second home owners to consider registration. But asking nicely was never going to be the answer to a problem like this and so Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council pressed for a more robust solution and this has now been delivered.

We'll see how this works. Will people be willing to sacrifice their council tax discount in order to retain the right to vote? I doubt it. But will people claim that their second home use is no longer purely recreational because they take their Blackberry or iPad with them and so can access their work emails? Regardless, it's a great step in the right direction and, despite the lack of debate, this is an important measure.

UPDATE - This story is getting some significant national coverage with both the Guardian and Telegraph running it and Radio 4's You and Yours programme featuring a discussion.

1 comment:

Jules said...
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