Sheffield Council u-turns on using retirement homes as polling stations

Sheffield Council u-turned on a decision to use a number of retirement homes across the city as polling stations in the local elections next week after residents protested.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 11:29 am

Now some voters are still waiting to be told where to vote.

Initially, the council sent out poll cards stating voters in Graves Park ward will need to go to Painted Fabrics, Meadowhead, to cast their votes.

But residents living in the home were outraged when they heard their lounge would be used in this way as they were barred from it throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and scared voters could bring the virus into the home.

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Retirement homes.

Geoffrey Oldfield, 65, one of the residents, put their case to their local MP and the council on behalf of all of the residents, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s and some bed-bound.

He said: “I objected to this on the grounds that if we couldn’t use it, why should people from outside be allowed to use it?

“We were all very worried because obviously we are frightened of catching this virus and also we have suffered with not being able to congregate in this lounge. My mum lived here and she deteriorated over the past 12 months and sadly she passed away earlier this year, and that was largely due to loneliness and depression because of not being able to mix with other people. So I just felt it was wrong to use our home as a polling station.

“There doesn’t seem to have been any planning, they just seemed to have thought ‘we used it in the past so we’ll use it again’ and there has been no thought gone into this.

“It makes you wonder where people are going to vote and what the council was thinking of in the first place.”

Following their protests, Mr Oldfield said council officers visited and agreed it was unsuitable but he said residents were not told where the replacement polling station will be.

He added this also happened in other areas.

When questioned by the local democracy reporting service, the council confirmed that Graves Park voters will shortly receive reissued poll cards with details of the new polling station, which will be Graves Park Bowling Pavilion.

It said it also had to find alternative polling stations to replace sheltered housing schemes John Trickett House, Chapeltown, and Orpen House, Norton.

There are two other retirement homes that were historically used in elections but officers were satisfied that these could be safely used.

Kate Josephs, chief executive of the council and returning officer, said: “Over the last couple of months each polling station has been visited and a plan drawn up for how it can be used in a Covid-safe way.

“In a small number of cases we have identified, as part of this process, that the building could not be adapted to be Covid-safe or had other issues.

“Where this has happened, we have found another building in the same polling district to use as an alternative.”

To check where your polling station is, visit https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-city-council/polling-stations