The Vale of Glamorgan Council is set to retain the unpopular and much-criticised polling station at Cosmeston Country Park Ranger’s Office – even though it means that every voter will have to drive there – or will have to cross the busy Lavernock Road to cast their vote.
In elections up until last year, Lavernock Ward residents had been able to use a special Portacabin polling station specially set up on the grass verge at Falcon Road (on the opposite side of the road and adjacent to the local housing estates) . That meant that until 2015 no one had to cross the road to cast their vote – particularly the elderly and disabled. But they do now.
Last year – in a cost-cutting operation – the Portacabin polling station at Falcon Road was dispensed with. Lavernock Ward voters had no option but to walk or drive to a new and alternative polling station established at Cosmeston Country Park where the voting booth and ballot box had been set up in the tiny Ranger’s Office.
The premises were so small it was questioned whether voters had the degree of privacy legally required for participating in what is supposed to be a secret ballot.
After the May 2015 elections, fresh concerns were raised about the change of polling station for the Lavernock Ward and its relocation to Cosmeston Country Park. A two-stage “consultation” and “review” was then carried out by the Vale’s Electoral Registration Officer which lasted from Monday 11 January 2016 to Friday 29th January 2016.
None of the people who would actually have to cross the road to vote were consulted . The only people consulted – described as “stakeholders” – were local MPs, MEPS, councillors and members of various organisations.
Amongst the consultees who did object to the Cosmeston Polling station were Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Vale Councillor for Sully) and Stephen Doughty (Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth).
Doughty, the report says , noted “Concerns raised regarding crossing main road which is extremely busy and poor lighting.” The report said the MP “Strongly supports change back to portacabin at Falcon Grove”. Cllr Mahoney meanwhile raised concerns about the size of the Cosmeston premises and the lack of disabled access .
Despite the objections of Cllr Kevin Mahoney and Stephen Doughty, the Vale summed up the “initial” consultation with a proposal to leave the arrangements as they stood [with polling to continue at Cosmeston Ranger’s Office ] . The council then said that in the “second phase” of the consultation “no further representations were received” . As a result, the status quo will prevail.
The only change for next May will be that a larger office will be provided than was allocated in May last year . In addition, “building works to improve wheelchair access” are to be carried out prior to the Welsh Assembly/Police Commissioner elections due on May 5th 2016.
A Vale Council report says “the Electoral Registration Officer is satisfied that the facilities are reasonable and it is accessible to electors that are disabled”.