Elections could be postponed under government plans for coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 08:34 02 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:34 02 March 2020

Boris Johnson leaves a polling station after casting his vote in an election. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA.

Boris Johnson leaves a polling station after casting his vote in an election. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The government is considering delaying local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections in May in a bid to tackle the coronavirus.

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Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the government was considering "all options" to tackle the virus, which could include closing schools and cancelling all public events.

This could stretch to the cancellation of upcoming elections which are due to take place this May.

In an email sent to the board members of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and seen by the Guardian, its chief executive Susannah Hancock revealed that the elections could be delayed.

"We have had a number of inquiries today regarding the PCC elections, coronavirus and whether the May PCC and local elections will take place," the email reads.

"I have spoken with the Home Office and they are currently liaising with Cabinet Office to understand their latest thinking and planning on this." The Home Office "are also engaging lawyers at their end to understand how things could proceed and what if any primary legislation might be needed etc".

It added: "We can get further information out to PCCs once we have more info next week, but I wanted to let you know the latest and that work is in hand."

Local elections are scheduled to take place on Thursday 7 May in 118 English areas, with elections for elected mayors in eight areas, and for 40 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "The commission and the electoral community are working hard to ensure that the scheduled May elections can go ahead as planned, as well as monitoring the developing issue of the coronavirus and its potential impact.

"Any changes to the date of May's polls would be a matter for the UK government and parliament. In the event of any changes to the date, we would work with the electoral community to minimise any potential disruption."

Last month the association of electoral administrators issued a warning over resource for elections after it claimed that "some councils unable consistently to meet electors' expectations".

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