By law, local authorities are required to carry out an annual canvass once a year to ensure the electoral registers are accurate and up to date. This costs around £65 million a year to conduct nationally.
Currently the law sets out a programme of canvass forms and house visits to ensure residents’ information is up to date each year. These requirements mean that local authorities are forced to spend time and resource chasing households where the number and identity of the residents has not changed. This leaves little scope for local authorities to use their local knowledge or data to focus on a much smaller proportion of households where a change in occupancy is likely to have taken place. This flexibility also allows councils to increase registration levels by better targeting those who don’t usually sign up.
This latest announcement adds to 3 pilot projects already underway in Birmingham, South Lakeland and Ryedale. In total 21 local authorities across England and Wales will be testing 4 different models combining notification by letters, email or by phone.
If these pilots are rolled out nationally they could generate savings of up to £20 million every year.
Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution said:
Currently the annual canvass costs around £65 million to conduct every year - it is too high and we must take advantage of new and emerging technology to make the process more efficient where we can.
We have already brought in huge changes to our electoral system with the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration and now, through these pilots, we are continuing to update and improve the system to fully realise these benefits and potentially save the taxpayer an estimated £20 million every year.
If we are going to achieve our vision of a democracy that works for everyone I am determined that our electoral system is one that efficiently supports a modern electorate.
The 21 piloting areas in 2017 are expected to make significant savings during the pilot process of between £1.2 million and £1.7million.
Current Cabinet Office estimates state that total savings to the canvass process could be in excess of £20 million per year should the pilots result in permanent change and are rolled out nationwide.
The 3 existing pilot areas are Birmingham, Ryedale and South Lakeland. The 2017 participating local authorities have been selected to show a spread across geographical regions, different levels of population movement within the authority, the process models and IT supplier. The additional 18 pilots announced today are:
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Blaenau Gwent
- Derbyshire Dales
- East Devon
- South Holland
- South Norfolk
- South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse