This report presents a review of the 2021 Canvass for consideration by Members. It summarises the changes resulting from the 2020 Canvass Reform Regulations, sets out the outcomes for Arun, what worked well, and lessons learned.
The Electoral Services Manager advised members that the annual canvass process had changed in 2020 and that this was the second year the canvass had been run in line with the new process. She explained that responses from route 1 properties had been increased by 1.13% which equated to just over 2000 properties in total. She went on to explain that the number of letters that were sent out for route 1 properties had been reduced by 9534 and that this had been achieved by sending emails for those properties where an email address was available. Further manual data matching checks were undertaken against other council departments in order to reduce the number of route 2 properties that would have needed a personal visit and/or a reminder form. Having carried out this work it had resulted in approximately a £10,000 saving on printing and postage costs. She also advised that the team planned to increase the number of e-mails and manual checks completed by extending the canvass timetable slightly for the annual canvass in 2022. This would allow for more cost savings and a more accurate register. The Electoral Services Manager outlined that the team would also be using SMS messaging for the first time.
In summing up it was explained that as the route 1 properties only required one communication during the canvass, it was planned that these communications would be sent later in the canvass timetable as this would allow for more accurate data due to it being received closer to the publication date of the Electoral Register on 1 December 2022. The information was therefore less likely to change before the May 2023 local elections. It was also confirmed that unlike 2020, where face to face canvassing was unable to be completed due to the pandemic, the team were able to undertake this exercise in 2021 but were still restricted as they were unable to train staff face to face. As restrictions had now been removed, this would be a further improvement for 2022 as face-to-face training would resume.
The Electoral Services Manager wished to put on record her thanks to the Council’s external staff and staff from across other departments for their continued assistance in ensuring that an accurate and up to date electoral register could be achieved.
The Group Head of Policy then expressed her thanks to the elections team and all the staff who worked alongside them, in particular the canvassers and the Customer Services Team. She stated that although the elections team lead on the canvass, it was very much a joint effort from everybody involved.
The Chair then invited questions from members. As there were no questions, he queried with the Electoral Services Manager why the data that was collected by the team during canvassing could not be used elsewhere across the business. She confirmed that the data was protected and could only be additionally used for fraud investigations that the council may be investigating. The Chair then asked if there was any way that for the next canvass a question could be included that specified that the data collected could be shared for all council purposes. The Group Head of Policy explained that under the GDPR regulations that was not possible. Further discussion on this topic was had where it was clarified that the owner of the data collected during the canvass process was not the council, but the Electoral Registration Officer and therefore the council was not entitled to use the data in any way.
The recommendations were then proposed by Councillor Bennett and seconded by Councillor Cooper.
RESOLVED - That
(1) The report be noted; and
(2) It be agreed that the Electoral Registration Officer continues to implement change as necessary to the 2022 Canvass process.