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ELECTION COUNTDOWN: From the church to the pub – just cast your vote
COMMUNITY halls, schools, churches and even a pub are among the polling station venues for the all-out local elections on Thursday, May 3.
Normally only one third of seats are available in Swindon at any one election, but this time every seat will be up for grabs because of redrawn ward boundaries.
There will be a 57-member council, with 18 three-member wards, one two-member ward (Chiseldon & Lawn), and one one-member ward (Ridgeway).
And to ensure everyone has somewhere nearby to cast their vote, Swindon Council’s electoral services team has booked 95 polling stations for the day, to be manned by 350 staff.
Manager Sally Sprason said: “Each ward is divided into areas depending on how big the ward is and legally we have got to find a polling station or a place to vote within that polling district, so that may be a church hall or a school or whatever.
“Basically, it’s just trying to look at the communities and see how we can find a place to vote that’s convenient for them.
“There’s been a few changes because of the boundary review where we have changed stations or we have additional stations to what we’ve had in the past, but in the main they’re the same.”
St Barnabas Church hall, in Ferndale Road, will again be a polling station for the Gorse Hill and Pinehurst ward, meaning the Open Door Centre, a drop-in centre for disabled adults which uses the hall on weekdays, will be shut on the day.
Craig Hiscock, the senior support worker, said: “Obviously it does affect our service because the members cannot come in on that day but as a staff team it’s handy because when it is shut we do staff team building or planning or different things.
“So one the one hand it’s a little difficult because we cannot run the service on that day, but on the other hand it’s good for the team to get together and do things we probably wouldn’t otherwise do.”
Headteacher Mike Welsh said: “We teach children about democracy and taking part in elections – we have school elections.
“We appreciate the need to be part of society at the same time. We also appreciate that democracy at times entails disruption, even if it’s just for the day.
“I think whenever schools are used it’s essential that we safeguard our children and if adults come into a school in significant numbers because it’s a very popular polling station, then we always have to ensure children’s safety.
“And that’s simply why schools have to consider closing.”
Other polling stations this year are the Tawny Owl pub, in Queen Elizabeth Drive; All Saints’ Church, in Southbrook Street, and The Winners Lounge at the County Ground.