The DUP’s East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and Upper Bann MP David Simpson have held a meeting at Westminster with Northern Ireland Office Minister Ben Wallace MP regarding proposals for the local electoral offices in Northern Ireland.
Mr Campbell said “Electoral office staff locally had expressed concerns about suggestions that most, or all electoral office work would be carried out in Belfast, which could result in the closure of the six regional offices including the one which covers Foyle and East Londonderry.
“Some time ago I asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the House of Commons, what plans she had to consult more widely on the potential reduction of the regional Electoral Office presence and local services throughout Northern Ireland.”
Replying on behalf of the Government, Northern Ireland office Minister Ben Wallace MP said “The Chief Electoral Officer and the Government are considering reform options to take advantage of technological change and ensure EONI remains on a sustainable financial footing. I expect a consultation on reform proposals, once developed, in the autumn.”
Mr Campbell went on: “The EU referendum meant a meeting was not possible until last week when Upper Bann MP David Simpson and I met with Mr Wallace at Westminster.
“We informed him of the valuable work that local staff in the regional offices perform, providing access to the public throughout Northern Ireland.
“As we are endeavouring to increase greater participation in elections, it is important that electoral registration is encouraged and not diminished, removing local offices to a central office in Belfast would have the effect of reducing participation in the electoral process.
“Encouraging the use of online registration of itself will not ensure maximum registration and the local offices can provide a focal point for people to engage in the registration process, particularly when it is supported by ‘satellite registration surgeries’ which we in the DUP frequently hold with local Electoral Office support.
“We also informed him that the retention of the local offices has cross party support as was demonstrated by the unanimous support in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Motion calling on the Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland to retain and fund adequately all regional offices currently under possible threat of closure.
“We will continue to press the case to retain the local offices when the consultation on reform proposals is expected to be announced in September.”