A SHORTER election season has handed the bigger parties the upper hand, according to independents and small groups.
The upcoming all-out polls for Rotherham Council on May 6 will be the first time the public has had its say on who represents them for five years.
The fall-out from the child sex exploitation scandal led to fixed terms of four years for all members — and last year’s local elections have been delayed by 12 months because of the pandemic.
And individuals working alone or in small numbers are having to battle the big parties when it comes to canvassing.
“The funding Labour receives makes challenging them an uphill task at the best of times,” said Michael Sylvester, independent candidate for Dalton & Thrybergh.
“But at the moment, the way local elections are being organised while lockdown is still in place hands them and the other big money party, the Conservatives, a massive establishment advantage over smaller rivals.
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“As well as the telephone canvassing they’ve already begun, Labour locally have for years employed delivery companies to deliver their leaflets, something that is allowed under current plans while, volunteer leafleting is not. It will give them a key advantage.”
Postal voting is expected to be more popular than ever — meaning a shorter time for candidates to make an impression on the electorate.
“It means polling day for many won’t be May 6th but mid April,” said Mr Sylvester. “That makes it even tougher for those of us who rely on friends and volunteers to get our message out. It really is looking like ‘advantage establishment’ at the moment.
Paul Martin, standing for the Green party in Wales, said: “It’s frustrating, because we would have been in the thick of it right now if not for the restrictions.
“Elderly members of our team are concerned about going out themselves. So it’s impossible at the moment to campaign in any meaningful way.
“A lot more people are going to be postal voting, so the actual election day isn’t really going to be May 6.
“That does put us at a disadvantage because bigger parties can send out through Royal Mail.”
He added: “We’re confident that we are making progress with engaging with people.
“Up to February last year, we were putting out regular leaflets, beginning canvassing and everything like that, and had quite a lot of feedback.
“The problem now is that the data we had from that is nowhere near as relevant as it was at that time.”
Mr Martin said a delay until late summer or autumn would help smaller party candidates standing against the large parties.
“That would give us an opportunity to contact more people,” he added. “The other issue now is getting ten signatures for every candidate, when you can’t go into people’s homes.”
Nominations close in April. The new council of 59 members will sit for three years because of the pandemic delay.