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Local Government Act 2003

Section 103: Power to change date of local elections in England

292.This section permits the Secretary of State to move, by order, the dates of local elections (for principal councils and parish councils) and Greater London Authority (GLA) elections in 2004 so that they are held on the same day as the European Parliamentary general election due in 2004. Ordinary local and GLA elections (i.e. elections other than by-elections) would normally be held on the first Thursday in May (6th May in 2004), whilst in 2004 the European Parliamentary elections have to be held in the period 10th to 13th June. Subsection (1)(a) enables the Secretary of State to leave ordinary parish council elections to take place on 6th May, or to move with them to June with the GLA and other ordinary local elections.

293.A by-election generally has to take place within a specified period after a vacancy occurs. In the event that local elections are moved to June, subsection (2)(a) would (for example) allow the Secretary of State’s order to provide that by-elections should not take place during the period from 6th May 2004 until the June election date.

294.Section 16(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1985 provides that where parish council, principal council and European Parliamentary elections would otherwise all take place on the same day, the parish council elections are to be postponed for 3 weeks. Subsection (2)(b) would allow the Secretary of State’s order to override that provision with the result that all of the elections could take place on the same day in June.

295.Local authorities, joint authorities and police authorities are required to hold annual meetings. In a year where a local authority has an ordinary election, the date of the meeting is linked to, but follows, the date of the election. In other years, and in every year for a police authority, the period within which its annual meeting has to be held allows for by-elections, or elections of its locally elected members, to take place on the first Thursday in May. Subsections (2)(c) and (3) will allow the Secretary of State’s order to cater for those meetings being moved to after the June elections in areas where ordinary elections are not held in 2004 but by-elections might be.

296.Some statutory provisions assume that there will be a single ordinary date of election for councillors throughout England and Wales. Subsection (4) enables the Secretary of State to make an order providing, for example, for the sensible working in England of such provisions in the event of the National Assembly for Wales making an order under section 104 moving some or all of the Welsh local elections in 2004 from May to June.

297.Paragraph 7 of Schedule 7 to the Act extends the power under section 15(5) of the Representation of the People Act 1985 so that, in the event of local and GLA elections being moved in 2004, regulations about combining those elections with the European Parliamentary general elections in that year will be able to modify any of the legislation governing any of the combined elections. The references to Gibraltar (both in paragraph 7 of Schedule 7 and in section 129(4)) allow for the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003 having been enacted. For as a result of that Act, combined 2004 elections will be governed by law which extends not only to each part of the United Kingdom but also to Gibraltar.

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