Message from South Cambridgeshire District Council:
The Counting Officer for South Cambridgeshire District Council has decided that the Neighbourhood Plan Referendum for Cottenham, scheduled to take place on Thursday 26 March 2020, should be suspended until further notice.
The current and rapidly escalating situation with respect to the Covid-19 virus means that running the poll next Thursday would present a significant public health risk to staff and voters, and would put voters in a position where they would need to risk their health in choosing to exercise their right to vote.
The government are in the process of passing legislation which will force the suspension of all polls, including those midway through their timetables. We have been informed that this legislation is unlikely to receive Royal Assent soon enough to take effect before 26 March.
In light of this, the government has issued a statement (https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-03-19/HCWS174/) making it clear that the suspension of polls underway would be “both reasonable and consistent with the national position”. Furthermore, the government have made it clear that they will be lending their full support to “Returning Officers and others running polls” who make the decision to suspend their polls.
The Counting Officer will move forward with a new date for the referendum when it is safe to do so, and when government guidance permits.