Published: 16:31, 04 November 2019
| Updated: 12:22, 05 November 2019
Two Kent councils have had to change the venue for general election counts - because they are being used for pantomimes on polling day.
And one of the two authorities says that it could have to find 19 new polling stations because they are already booked for other festive events and activities on December 12.
Tunbridge Wells council has switched the venue for its count from the Assembly Halls Theatre to a nearby sports centre at Paddock Wood. The theatre is being used for the pantomime Peter Pan - which, perhaps appropriately, is based on a story about the search for an imaginary faraway place called Neverland.
Gravesham council has a similar problem and has had to switch from the Woodville Hall theatre for the count because it is staging its production of Beauty and The Beast. The count will now take place at Cascades leisure centre.
The Tunbridge Wells returning officer William Benson - the council’s chief executive - acknowledged the December poll had presented challenges. At one point, it also faced the possibility of having to find several new polling stations because of double bookings but the bulk - 39 - had been confirmed with just six still uncertain.
He said: “There are challenges with a winter poll; obviously it is colder and darker and some of the polling stations we are using we need heating and light; there is the possibility of snow and what that might mean for getting staff about; at some of the schools we are using they have their own Christmas shows.”
Other councils contacted by KentOnline said there would be no major upheaval in terms of polling stations.
Dover council said it was rearranging venues for two polling stations; Gravesham council said that other than the change in the venue for the count, no polling stations needed to be changed while Tonbridge and Malling council said it was in the process of establishing if it needed to organise any alternative venues for people to cast their vote.
Canterbury City Council said it was focusing on completing its electoral canvass and had yet to establish if changes would be needed.
Folkestone council said it had no major issues but one polling station - a church hall - was now unavailable because it had been sold for £400,000. Voters now went to a local pub instead.
The national association representing returning officers has already flagged up concerns about the winter poll.
It said there could be problems caused by the weather for both counting officials at poll stations and for voters who could struggle to get to cast their vote.
However, the government has ended confusion over whether councils should use new electoral registers that have to be updated by December 1.
Returning officers have been told they can use the new registers, which will have the most up-to-date details of voters.
More by this authorPaul Francis