Newcastle loses 18,000 potential voters in register switch-over

A voting switch-over has hit university cities like Newcastle the hardest – with 18,500 people now missing from the electoral register in Tyneside.

Newcastle is among the worst-hit of the English core cities after a change in voter registration came into effect in the summer.

New figures show that thousands of people, including many students, failed to register when sent a letter in the post explaining that they now need to register individually, rather than through the traditional ‘head of the household’.

Plans for the change to Individual Voter Registration were brought in by the Labour government and taken up by the coalition Government.

Now city councillors are attempting to get voters back on the register, and are asking people to make sure they’ve signed up so they can play their part when the election comes round in May 2015.

Among the most affected wards are those popular with students, like the Ouseburn ward, which lost 4,673 voters. The Westgate and Wingrove wards also lost over 1000 voters each.

Stephen Powers, Ouseburn ward councillor and deputy cabinet member for Community Safety and Regulation, said:

“It’s had a massive impact on some of our cities in terms of the number of people that have gone from the old register.

“The way the system worked is that you would have had the head of the household and they could have filled out the form for everybody and now under the new system each person has to do it themselves and supply their national insurance number.

“The big group that we’ve lost is students in halls of residence as the university used to act as the head of the household.”

In some wards of university town Oxford, up to 60% of its previously registered student population has disappeared from the new list.

Coun. Powers said that Newcastle City Council has been given a fund to try and increase voter registration, but that councillors will have to work at full capacity to try and get the message across the university students.

He said: “It’s going to be an uphill battle to reach that many people.”

The council intend on sending a notification letter to all households in February next year.

This will give an early opportunity for anyone not registered to apply in time for the May elections. It is also simple to register to vote online. Go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  08 Dec 2014

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