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Holding a Local Referendum.....
...........How you can do so in the UK using Existing Legislation

It is not generally known, but legislation under the 1972 Local Government Act already makes allowances for the holding of local referendums in the
United Kingdom.  Until relatively recently, this measure has been little used, but now an increasing number of local communities are starting to make use of it.  What's more it is relatively easy for ordinary voters to set up a local referendum and although at present the result is only be advisory, it does nonetheless serve to let the authorities know just what local people feel on an issue.  Below is an outline of the steps involved.

  1. Choose an Issue over which people in your area feel strongly. The boundaries of "your area" are those governed by your local Parish Council (England), or Community Council (Wales).  Unfortunately provisions do not exist for similar procedures in Scotland or Ulster.
  2. Six voters on the Electoral Register for that Parish (available for viewing at local Post Office) now need to sign a piece of paper calling for a Public Parish meeting on a specified date more than seven clear working days hence.  This 'notice of meeting' should specify date, time (after 6.00pm), venue, the names of the six, and the business to be transacted at the meeting (ie to call for a referendum on your chosen question).  As a minimum the notice should be pinned up at one prominent site in the area.
  3. Notify the Parish Council and the Chairman of the District Council of what you are doing.  Tell them that you are acting under Part 3, schedule 12, paragraph 18, subparagraphs 4 and 5 of the Local Government Act 1972.  You may well find that if your chosen issue arouses strong feelings locally, the Parish Council will come on board to help with the organisation of the meeting.
  4. For the meeting to be valid, you will need at least ten local voters present. The meeting may be chaired by the Chairman of the Parish council if willing, but this is not essential, as anyone chosen by the meeting can chair it.  Whatever else happens at the meeting, you will need to propose a motion calling for a referendum (Parish Poll) on your chosen question or questions.  If one third of those voters present, or ten of those present, whichever figure is smaller, call for a referendum, then your District Council is obliged by law to hold one.  Note this means that it is actually possible to loose a vote at the meeting, but still satisfy the requirements for calling a referendum.
  5. Go to your District Council and tell them the outcome of the vote at the meeting.  Quote the relevant legislation again.  They now have between 14 and 25 days to hold the referendum.
  6. You will be notified of the date of the referendum (Parish Poll).  Voters will not receive Poll cards, nor will postal or proxy voting be allowed, but in other respects the poll will be carried out by the council's returning officer just as in an election.  Liase with the returning officer in advance if you wish to attend the count.
  7. It is now up to you to publicise the referendum, as the District Council is only obliged to display the minimum notices required in law.  Are you going to put up posters, or to leaflet the area?  One thing you should certainly do, and that is to talk to the local press, as this will make a good story for them.
  8. After the result is announced, you can again use the media to obtain maximum publicity for the outcome, should it have been the one you desired!  Local referendums as mentioned earlier are only advisory in the UK at present, but even so it would be a very bold council which decided to go against the strongly held wishes of its local electorate.

Further information on holding local referendums can be obtained from publications produced by The National Association of local Councils, 108 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LD. Tel: 0207 637 1865


'Let the people decide..............'

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