Warning more electoral offices could close

Graham Shields said old office accommodation was not suitable
Graham Shields said old office accommodation was not suitable

More regional electoral offices in Northern Ireland could close next summer, the chief electoral officer has said.

Offices in Newtownards and Ballymena are closing at the end of this month with staff transferring to Belfast and Newtownabbey.

DUP MP Ian Paisley

DUP MP Ian Paisley

Chief electoral officer Graham Shields said: “The premises are old, the layout of the offices is not suitable and in many cases they have an excess of accommodation which is used at election time, but in non-election years we are carrying substantial accommodation that just lies empty and it is not efficient to do that.”

Major leases are to expire next summer, Mr Shields told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) of MPs at Westminster.

Shutting Newtownards and Ballymena will save £40,000. The organisation – which manages elections and voter registrations – has been running a deficit for the last three years, he said.

But committee member Ian Paisley MP did not accept the financial threat to the offices.

“Under questioning the chief electoral officer could not give a detailed breakdown of the financial reasons for his projected deficit and has now undertaken to produce a separate financial report for the NIAC,” he said.

“This report is loaded against the continuation of local electoral offices across Northern Ireland. It has a thread running through it that a number of staff should recognise that their jobs are on the line and they will find that the local councils in NI are going to be trained and employed to do this work.”

Separately, plans have been announced to allow voters in Northern Ireland to register electronically for elections.

To take part in the consultation call 90 523503 or email elections.unit@nio.gov.uk.