Electoral office closure feared

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Trade union representatives are considering industrial action in the run up to the Assembly and Brexit polls as one possible response to a management proposal to close the Londonderry electoral office.

NIPSA, which represents many of Electoral Office workers, says the closure of the Londonderry office in Queen Street, will diminish local democracy.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Alderman Mary Hamilton told the Sentinel she agrees with the union’s stance.

She said: “I’d like to say that I totally support the staff in their campaign to keep a local office in the North West.

“This is, after all, the second city in Northern Ireland, and with all the closures we’ve had over the years it’s vital we keep as many jobs and offices in the city as we possibly can.”

Independent Alderman Maurice Devenney concurred: “It’s of great concern that the closure of regional electoral offices is on the agenda. I would appeal to the Electoral Office and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) to reconsider their position as this would be a huge blow, not only in terms of the staff affected, but for local democracy in general.”

A spokesperson for NIPSA said: “Currently NIPSA members are considering the implications of management proposals and local NIPSA representatives.

“We believe that the current proposals will seriously affect local services provided to members of the public and political parties.

“At a time when we should be working to increase voter participation, especially amongst young people, services should not be removed. We call on NIO to properly fund the Electoral Office and we call for our politicians to protect the democracy they claim to represent.”

A spokesperson for the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland said: “The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland is currently considering a range of options for re-structuring his office, including capitalising on new technology.

“In taking this forward, the Chief Electoral Officer will have particular regard to the continued effective delivery of elections in Northern Ireland and ensuring that his office remains on a sustainable financial footing.

“Work on the re-structuring project is at an early stage and any significant change will be subject to public consultation in due course.”

NIPSA recently wrote to affected members indicating a ballot for industrial action in the run up to the forthcoming elections and referendum may be in the offing.