I have already posted on this row between the National Assembly and the Electoral Commission on the one hand, and Powys County Council on the other. The Assembly Presiding Officer and the Electoral Commission jointly sent a strongly worded letter to the Chair of Powys asking that the decision to refuse to promote the Assembly Election, taken by the officers of the Council be reversed, explaining that only Powys of the 22 councils in Wales had refused. It seems that Michael Jones, the Chair responded by saying that Conwy and Gwynnedd had also taken the same line, and that the council couldn't afford it anyway (though I have not seen a copy of the letter).
I have now seen a copy of the Electoral Commission's response to this letter. It is fairly obvious to me that the Electoral Commission does not fully accept the Council's version of events and are 'tamping mad' about the Powys attitude. I publish this letter below. You can judge for yourself.
And a big thank you to The Pool Card Company.
The paragraph that interests me is the first. The Electoral Commission did not 'publicise any previous correspondence to the media'. They sent me a copy and I published it - on this blog. And now that I have individuals who work for Powys, telephoning me about things that the Council wants to keep secret, I can see this blog being kept increasingly busy !
Dear Councillor Jones,
Thank you for your letter dated 12 March.
Firstly, may I clarify that the electoral Commission did not publicise any previous correspondence or any additional information related to the distribution of the leaflet in question to any section of the media.
It may help if I give some further background about the issue of the distribution of the information leaflet. The Commission held a series of briefing sessions with electoral administrators across Wales to discuss a number of issues related to the upcoming elections to the National Assembly for Wales. Powys County Council were represented at the session in Swansea on 5th December 2006. At this session the proposed information leaflet was discussed, with attendees being advised that the Electoral Commission and the National Assembly for Wales would be responsible for the design and production element. Local Authorities were asked to take responsibility for the distribution of the leaflet (not including costs), in the most effective manner, to every household in Wales. This would be consistent with the new statutory duty of local election officers, under the Electoral Administration Act 2006, "to encourage the participation by electors in the election process", including at elections to the National Assembly.
The Commission followed up the briefing sessions with correspondence providing additional details about the leaflet, so that individual local authorities could plan for distribution.
We were advised by Powys County Council officers, however that they were unable to arrange for distribution. All other Local Authorities in Wales agreed to make arrangements to distribute the leaflet by various means, including the local authorities of Conwy and Gwynedd.
I am pleased to say that a local distribution firm in Powys (The Pool Card in Welshpool), having heard a report regarding this situation on a local radio station, has come forward and offered their help in the delivery of the resource. Commission staff are now dealing with this company in ensuring that each household in the county will receive a copy of the leaflet.
I hope this clarifies the situation.
Yours sincerely, Glyn Mathias, Electoral Commissioner