Election day: Harrogate voters head to the polls - what to know about voting, the results and more
Election day has arrived and Harrogate residents are heading to the polls in what will be one of the most challenging ballots ever held due to pandemic restrictions.
Millions of voters across the UK are today electing more than 5,000 officials into positions of power but in our area there are just two top roles up for grabs - North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and Bilton and Nidd Gorge county councillor.
The PFCC election was originally meant to take place this time last year but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak which has meant Julia Mulligan has stayed in the post for an extra year.
Ms Mulligan has held the role since it was created in 2012 and there are four candidates in the race to replace her including Philip Allott (Conservatives), James Barker (Liberal Democrats), Alison Hume (Labour) and Keith Tordoff (Independent).
Meanwhile, and unlike most areas, there are no full elections being held for all county councillor seats on North Yorkshire County Council.
This is because of government plans to end the county's two-tier councils to make way for unitary local government, with elections to a new structure due to take place in May 2022.
There are, however, votes being taken for the Bilton and Nidd Gorge seat which has been left vacant since the death of Liberal Democrat councillor Geoff Webber in March.
There are six candidates contesting to take the seat including Matt Scott (Conservatives), Andrew Kempston-Parkes (Liberal Democrats), Tyler Reeton (Labour), Arnold Warneken (Green Party), John Hall (Yorkshire Party) and Harvey Alexander (Independent).
There are also no elections to Harrogate Borough Council but the authority is in charge of collecting votes and has announced a number of changes will be in place due to Covid-19.
Voters at polling stations can expect one-way systems, social distancing, plastic screens and PPE for election staff. They must also bring their own pen or pencil, wear a face covering and sanitise their hands when entering and leaving.
Anyone who is unable to go along in person because they are self-isolating can apply for a proxy vote up until 5pm on polling day.
Wallace Sampson, chief executive at Harrogate Borough Council and local returning officer for the PFCC election, added: "You do not need your poll card to vote, however, we encourage voters to bring it with them to make the process quicker and more efficient.
"Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 6 May. If you have opted to vote by post you must return your postal ballot pack by 10pm. You can hand it in at any polling station if you don’t have time to return it by post.
"Please also check the information on your polling card, as your polling station might have changed since the last elections."
A number of polling stations across the Harrogate district have temporarily and permanently moved locations because of coronavirus restrictions.
The following have moved temporarily:
· All Saints Church School has moved to Sicklinghall Village Hall
· Baldersby Mission Room has moved to Rainton Village Hall
· Lofthouse Memorial Hall has moved to Middlesmoor Village Hall
· St Mary’s Church at Dunsforth has moved to Boroughbridge Methodist Church
· St Michael’s all Angels Church at Wilsill has moved to Broadbelt Hall, Glasshouses
· The Inn at South Stainley has moved to Markington Village Hall
· The Kitchen, Asenby Hall has moved to Rainton Village Hall
· Woodside, Carters Lane has moved to Askwith Village Hall
· Nun Monkton Primary School has moved to Kirk Hammerton Village Hall
· St George’s Social Club has moved to Marks Church Hall
The following three polling stations have also permanently moved;
· North Rigton Primary School has moved to St John’s Church, North Rigton
· The Hydro has moved to Jennyfield Evangelical Church, Grantley Drive
· Citizens Advice Bureau has moved to The Wesley Centre, Oxford Street
Voters must be 18 or over on the day of the election.
They must also be registered at an address in the area where they want to vote, be a British citizen, an Irish or EU citizen or an eligible Commonwealth citizen and not legally excluded from voting.
The election winners are expected to be announced on Friday 7 May.
For more information go to www.harrogate.gov.uk/voting-elections
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter