09 May 2010
St Paul's in the Jewellery Quarter is one of the most picturesque polling stations in Birmingham. Serving the north of the Ladywood ward, it is also a polling station where the Conservatives do relatively well. However, the number of voters it serves is crazy. Latest information suggests it has 3,008 voters. For comparison the polling station with the second highest number of voters in the ward has an electorate of 2,117.
This large electorate has been a source of frustration for some time. It means some voters have quite a trek to place their cross and I believe that other Conservative politicians in the city have made representations to have further polling stations made available in Ladywood ward. On Thursday, we experienced another unfortunate consequence of the current arrangements. Having popped in in the morning I arrived at the polling station at about 6pm and already the queues were growing. At this stage, it was just inside the church, but within a short time, it extended into the street as my photo shows. On the one hand, it is a sign of higher turnout, but when I saw people in the slow-moving queue giving up on the democratic process I had to go into the station to let the two staff manning the station know that the queue now extended well outside the church and that people were walking away. I told them that anything they could do to speed up would be appreciated.
Obviously, I left to prepare for the count, but I did send texts to friends I know in the Jewellery Quarter asking whether they had voted and to get a move on. Next sign of a problem was when a friend sent me a text at 10.10 saying 'still voting now'. It is reported that 100 people were turned away from the polling station at around 10 O'Clock some of whom had turned up as early as nine. And you can add on the people who left the queue or decided not to vote based on the queue to the numbers who were disenfranchised.
If any of my readers can shed more light on the matter, I suggest checking out this statement from Birmingham Council. The action that needs to be taken now is obvious. Have another polling station in the Jewellery Quarter to relieve the potential bottlenecks and put more voters within easy access of polling stations. I would suggest the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.