THE RETURNING officer for the forthcoming Worcestershire County Council elections has moved to clarify the situation surrounding Rubery’s Holywell Primary School being used as a polling station.
Bromsgrove Chief Executive Kevin Dicks spoke at tonight’s Rubery Community Meeting after the issue was raised by Rev Claire Turner, who expressed her frustrations as a parent.
He said: “We don’t want to use schools as polling stations but the difficulty is there were no other suitable buildings.”
Among those looked at were Rubery Social Club but building work meant it could not accommodate the vote, Waseley Hills High School said it was unable to host it, Rubery Community Leisure Centre was considered not close enough to the electorate, leaving the village’s library as the only other alternative.
Coun Peter McDonald said he had requested this be looked at as an option but he was not sure if it was too late to change the venue.
And he launched a scathing attack on the Government for choosing to hold the poll during the pandemic in the first place, saying many people had lobbied to get it put back because of issues surrounding social distancing, sanitising the polling stations and pencils and ensuring the count could be done safely.
It was stated Public Health England had been consulted by the Government and believed the elections could be carried out safely.
Earlier in the day, when the news broke, parents of children attending Holywell School reacted angrily on social media.
If the planned arrangements stay the same, it means the school will be shut all day on May 6 – coming after a year of disruption to children’s education caused by the pandemic.
The school’s headteacher Christian Hamilton protested against the decision and, in a response to parents, said the school had a legal duty to accommodate the polling station.
“How schools can still be called upon to provide this facility given the recent closures is beyond me but there we are.”
He added he had requested if it was possible to cordon off part of the building so learning could continue but that was subject to a risk assessment.
A final decision had not been taken but he would be informing parents as soon as it was.