More news in the wake of last week's update about the success of the campaign to Save General Election Night.
One of the most intransigent authorities during the course of this campaign has been Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where Lib Dem councillor Gerry Keating, chairman of its constitutional committee, has vigorously insisted that Newcastle would count on the Friday morning.
Last September he said:
“It is vital that the accuracy of the ballot is assured, especially given the hours involved. We have followed advice on this matter from the Association of Electoral Administrators and fully expect many other local authorities will have to make similar arrangements.”
He appeared on television to defend Friday counting and even argued against me on the radio in defence of that position. Newcastle MP and Government Chief Whip Nick Brown spoke out in favour of a Thursday night count, as did the city's Conservatives.
So I am especially delighted that Newcastle has now accepted that they must count on the Thursday night.
A statement on the council's website states:
"Newcastle City Council has announced that it will start its count of votes in the General Election within four hours of polls closing at 10pm on election day. Results are expected to be declared in the early hours of the following morning."
"Legislation likely to be passed before the election, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, is expected to require returning officers to begin their counts within four hours of the polls closing. Latest guidance from the Electoral Commission confirms that returning officers should seek to comply with the new law unless there are exceptional circumstances.
"Newcastle City Council’s acting returning officer, Chief Executive Barry Rowland, said: 'The Government has made it very clear that it expects councils to conduct counts without any undue delay. This causes some logistical difficulties for those authorities with large postal votes – but it can be done, and our staff will work through the night to make sure the results can be declared as soon as possible'."
Newcastle are not yet recorded as having changed their position on the Electoral Commission's list of when counts are happening, although others which are noted as having now switched back to Thursday night include:
- Bradford East
- Bradford South
- Bradford West
Hopefully the calling of the election this week will focus the minds of the remaining returning officers, who should recall my refrain of last week: If the Western Isles can count on the Thursday night, why can't you?