Lack Of Access Creating ‘Democratic Deficit’ Labour Says

A Plymouth City councillor says a lack of access to many properties in the city is making it difficult to communicate with voters and creating a “democratic deficit”.

Cllr Alison Raynsford is aiming to draw attention to some of the obstacles she says are being put in the way of voters in the city when she brings a motion to full council on Monday.

Difficulty in accessing certain buildings and developments means voters are unable to have information hand-delivered to them while the cost of posting election literature repeatedly to inaccessible addresses is prohibitive.

It also restricts the opportunity for voters to have doorstep conversations with candidates, especially at election time.

“It is extraordinary that we are asking people to vote without ensuring that they have access to information about the people who are vying to represent them,” said Cllr Raynsford, who won her seat in a by-election in the St Peter and the Waterfront ward in July 2023.

She says it was “striking” how many properties she was unable to access during her campaign.

“During the by-election I know that I visited some properties three times to try to find someone at home.

“I also know that there were estates, flats and HMOs where access was impossible even to deliver leaflets, we were barred,” said Cllr Raynsford, who was also a Plymouth MP from 2005 until 2015.

“There are areas across Plymouth like Millfields, Ocean Court, Keyham Court, and swathes of social housing blocks which are either impossible or unbelievably difficult to enter, and that’s just in one ward in the city.”  

Cllr Raynsford’s motion, which will be debated by councillors on Monday, asks the leader of the council to write to the Electoral Commission and the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission to ask them to investigate the issue.

“This will be my first speech in council,” she said.

“I’m proud that it is on an issue which is so fundamental to increasing access to democracy.”