In this week's column, Councillor Jason Brock, the outgoing leader of Reading Borough Council, gives a reminder that the local elections are coming up, and urges people to make sure they are registered and have valid voter ID. Cllr Brock writes:

The spring flowers are out in all their blooming glory… which must mean it’s that time of the year again when all the talk – in local Government circles at least – turns to the fast-approaching local elections.

For those of you who don’t know, polling day is Thursday 2nd May this year. In Reading, 16 councillors will be up for election – one in each ward. There is also the Police and Crime Commissioner election this year, taking place on the same day and deciding which candidate holds the purse strings on matters of crime and community safety in our town and across the Thames Valley area. Important stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

While polling day is still a month away, there is now less than a fortnight left to register to vote, if you haven’t done so already. As always, the easiest way is online at, and it really does take just five minutes.

You will remember that last year the Government introduced some important changes to the voting process, most notably the need for residents who choose to vote in person at their local station to show photographic ID. The same applies this year. It’s important you know that the good people staffing our polling stations have no choice here – if a voter appears at a polling station without the right photo ID, they will be asked to return with it before they can be issued a ballot paper. A poll card alone does not entitle someone to vote. You can find out what the Electoral Commission deem to be acceptable ID on its website at

Last year, the first year the new requirement to show photo ID was introduced, 99.7% of the residents of Reading who went to a polling station were able to cast a vote. 270 people were initially turned away and not issued with a ballot paper because they did not have an acceptable form of ID. 197 of those subsequently returned with ID and were able to vote. 73 residents did not return and, consequently, did not cast a vote despite making their way to a local polling station to do so.

While the council locally did everything in its power to inform and alert local residents of the change, it was inevitable that some residents would be disadvantaged. Setting aside most of the partisan politics, I’m personally frustrated that 73 Reading residents were unable to exercise their democratic right when they wanted to do so, so please take some time to plan ahead and make sure you have the right ID with you on the day.

There is, of course, an easy alternative to all of this, which is to apply for a postal vote. This means you can cast your vote from the comfort of your own home, without having to show voter ID at a polling station. Or, indeed, you could register a proxy vote, where you nominate someone you trust to vote on your behalf. The deadline to apply for a postal vote is 5pm on 17th April, while for a proxy vote its one week later, 5pm on 24th April. To apply, please go to: or

If you have a postal vote, but miss the final post for 2nd May, you can drop your postal pack at the Council’s offices on Bridge Street right up until 5pm on Thursday 2nd May, or at your local Polling Station up until 10pm. Please be aware, however, that another new piece of national legislation has been introduced this year which means you will need to fill in a form before dropping the pack off. Residents who drop off a postal pack (or post one through the Council’s letter box) without completing the necessary form will unfortunately have their postal pack rejected. You can hand deliver up to five postal packs, in addition to your own.

And, speaking of changes, there are two to local polling stations in Reading this year. In Church ward, previous Scout and Guide Hut electors will this year vote at Tyndale Baptist Church, 2-4 Cressingham Road. And in Whitley ward, those used to the old Whitley Wood Community Centre will now vote at the new Whitley Wood Community Centre, at 28-35 Lexington Grove.

Last year, the polling station turnout in Reading for the local elections was just 25.78% and the overall turnout was 32.60%. Both were the lowest figures in Reading for a number of years. Changes to the election process – erecting barriers to participation – can make it even more challenging to encourage residents to exercise their right to vote, but by writing this I hope to be doing my small bit. If you spare some time to remind your family or friends of the changes, you’ll be doing the same!