MLAs united against axeing of Electoral Offices

Editorial image
Editorial image

North Antrim MLA Paul Frew has lodged a motion at Stormont in a bid to save Regional Electoral Offices, including Ballymena, from closure.

The DUP Assemblyman lodged it in the no day motion list in the NI Assembly calling on the Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland to ‘retain and fund adequately’ all regional office currently under threat of closure.

He and other DUP colleagues placed it with the business office to highlight the issue which affects the Ballymena office along with offices in Banbridge, Londonderry, Newtownabbey, Newtownards and Omagh.

In a statement on Thursday, he said: “I met with DUP coleagues who represent areas also threatened with closure and I put forward the suggestion that this issue should be debated in the Assembly chamber.

“This will damage democracy in Northern Ireland, lead to fewer people on the electoral register and to a diminished role for the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland in local schools and communities.

“The staff in these regional offices don’t just do sterling work throughout an election campaign, they work hard all year round and people can easily access their expertise by walking off the street. Moving to a one office system in the centre of Belfast making everyone travel or use the internet just won’t work and this decision should be reversed,” said Mr Frew.

Meanwhile, UUP MLA Robin Swann is calling on the local community to rally behind the trade union campaign to save the Ballymena Electoral Office.

Mr Swann said: “I fully support the NIPSA call for industrial action. The Electoral Offices must be retained throughout Northern Ireland and not just be centralized in Belfast.

“In the light of falling turnouts at elections in Northern Ireland, we should be making access to democracy easier, not harder, by maintaining the regional office in Ballymena,” he said.

The NIO has said its proposals to close six regional offices, which include Ballymena, are in response to a reduction in funding and the introduction of technology for online voter registration.