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Lack of polling cards could hinder voter turnout in Hadleigh council referendum, says ex-deputy mayor

Hadleigh High Street. (2630262)
Hadleigh High Street. (2630262)

Supporters of this month’s referendum on the future of Hadleigh Town Council are concerned that some people will not know how to vote, after confirmation that polling cards are not being sent out.

The poll will take place on June 28, asking Hadleigh residents whether or not they would like to see all of the current town councillors resign, after the public approved a motion for the vote last month.

It comes after months of internal disputes between older and newer councillors, as well as rising public discontent about the council’s handling of various matters, including the Hadleigh Neighbourhood Plan.

Babergh District Council has now confirmed polling will occur between 4pm and 9pm on the day, with voters allocated to one of three different stations, depending on their electoral number.

The three locations are The Guildhall in Market Place, the rear of the former Babergh offices in Corks Lane, and St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Long Bessels.

However, due to the tight timetable between the referendum being called and it taking place, the district council will not be able to send out polling cards.

A council spokesman says residents should vote at the station they would usually go to at elections.

People who would normally go to Beaumont Primary School should instead go to the Corks Lane station, while those who would normally go to South Suffolk Leisure Centre should vote at The Guildhall.

The spokesman advised that anyone unsure of where they should cast their vote should call 0300 1234 000 or by going online to www.babergh.gov.uk/news/hadleigh-parish-poll.

But critics say they believe that by not sending out a polling card in the post, this may contravene the Equality Act 2010, as it could negatively affect the ability of people with disabilities to vote.

Former Hadleigh deputy mayor Bill Wilson, who resigned from the town council in January and supports a ‘yes’ vote in the poll, said: “You must know your voters roll number to know which polling centre to attend.

“Given that no polling cards are being sent out, no one will know where to go.

“It could also be a case that the poll contravenes the Equality Act 2010.

“In a normal election, a polling card is sent to every voter and that acts as an alert that a vote is due.

“Anyone who is not fully mobile may not be able to get to the notice board to see that they then have to travel to a polling station.

“By not send polling cards or more widely advertising the referendum, they are acting against the EA.

“The enforcement of the EA comes when an individual takes an organisation to task. This could happen if we win and the other side decides to challenge it this way. If we lost, ditto.”