NIPSA is to ballot its members in the Electoral Office for industrial action to oppose proposals to close all six regional offices.
Under management proposals, regional electoral offices in Ballymena and Newtownards will close later this year with the remaining offices in Banbridge, Londonderry, Newtownabbey and Omagh closing early next year.
Despite proposals by NIPSA to mitigate the impact of the proposals, Electoral Office management remain committed to the closures that will mean staff will lose their jobs and more local services will be withdrawn from rural areas.
Dooley Harte, NIPSA Official, stated: “Staff in regional electoral offices provide an excellent, impartial and vital service to rural communities. They deal with voter registration, electoral identity and organise our election services as well as providing outreach in schools to increase voter registration with our young people. All these services will be centralised into Belfast.”
Management within the Electoral Office have indicated that these proposals are driven by reduced funding from the Northern Ireland Office with over 25% having been lost since 2010 and a further reduction of 17% proposed by 2020.
“How much is our democracy worth?” asked Mr Harte. “These proposals will not lead to a better service, in fact exactly the opposite. Voter registration will now be done online despite over 800,000 voters being lost when online registration was introduced in England. Electoral Identity services will go to Belfast and there will be little or no outreach services in schools. And our political representatives will have travel to Belfast to nominate for elections.
“The closure of offices will mean a reduction in services and the loss of jobs. NIPSA calls on Northern Ireland Office to review its funding of the Electoral Office. We call on management to conduct a full accommodation review to properly consider options proposed by NIPSA to co-locate electoral services into local council offices. And we call on our political representatives to stand up and protect the election services they rely upon.”